Eames Archives: Parking Lot Photography

Charles Eames once remarked, “never let the blood show.” When the Eames Office presented a project to the public—whether it be a film, an exhibition, a piece of furniture, or a picnic—it was perfected down to its most minute details. The Eameses did not evoke sloppiness or produce anything on a whim. Eames Office visitors were taken on a rehearsed tour of the workspace—a visit that was meant to feel spontaneous to the guest. One time, when a publication asked for photographs of the interior of the Eames Office space in Venice, Charles provided images of the interior shot through the lens of a kaleidoscope. With all of this in mind, photographs of their design process in mid-progression are often tough to find in public circulation.

This archival image shows a photoshoot of the Eames Aluminum Group Lounge and Side Chair for an advertisement published in Fortune magazine in May 1960. The parking lot’s location is unveiled thanks to specific landmarks—the Christian Science Church and Reading Room, Holdren Motor Repair Shop, and Hammond Lumber—as the intersection of W. Washington Boulevard (now Abbot Kinney Boulevard) and Main Street in Venice, California. The Eames Office’s workspace was just around the bend of the road at the intersection of Brooks Avenue and W. Washington Boulevard.

Charles Eames took this photograph while seated high above in a crane branded the “Demonstrator.” A series of images were made of models, props, and seats in various positions and stitched together to create the final, abstracted advertisement. Take note of well-dressed models, Ray Eames off to the side pondering the configuration of the set, various props and beverages scattered among the empty Herman Miller boxes, a Polaroid SX-70 camera used for test shots resting on the table, and a dog leashed to the front bumper of a parked car. Below, you’ll see alternate images of the set, the final advertisement, and a map of the current intersection in Venice.

Read the introduction to the Eames Archives: An Image as an Idea series here and stay tuned for monthly installments.