His Master's Voice - The Mantra Trap

Posted on May 04, 2014 by Peter Hyatt | 0 Comments

I recently described an architect's work as distinctive for being so emphatic and certain of itself, rather than dogmatic. Plenty of practitioners adhere to a formula, or set of golden rules, for design. I've always considered the slavish adoption of a prescriptive type, or movement, quite self-defeating and only useful in the absence of evolving an approach more truly our own. It's a reminder that most 'isms' that grow out of dogma have a limited shelf-life. It's as true for photography as architecture.

A disciple of Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd-Wright believed that a strict set of 'do as I say' rules could provide a template that echoed his master's view of the world. Local architects haven't entirely avoided the mantra trap either. We don't need to look too hard there. Lloyd-Wright's teaching experiment under the Taliesen sun saw countless students pass through his school with unremarkable results in the wider world.

Only the great California-based John Lautner found his stride and self-confidence to become a major figure and, almost certainly would have done so even without Lloyd-Wright's curmudgeonly input. Lautner's work was wonderfully emphatic and never dogmatic. The Taliesen experiment is a reminder that the master who attempts to generate offspring in his or her likeness rarely succeeds. Results tend to be a pale imitation overtaken by an outside world of new and emerging ideas about creativity as adjunct to building better lives for others. Photography is similarly plagued with golden rules that lead to copy-cat results. Given a choice between an emphatic and dogmatic world, I'll take emphatic every time.

Posted in Dogma, His Master's Voice, John Lautner, Lloyd-Wright, The Mantra Trap


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