Robert C. Lautman, Washington’s dean of architectural photography who chronicled the work of local modern architects such as Charles Goodman, Hugh Newell Jacobsen and Arthur Keyes, reflected on his career last night at the National Building Museum. Still working after 60 years, Lautman discussed the joy his continuing career has brought him. Presenting a dual slideshow–one side highlighted some of his favorite and most arresting images, while the other had quotes discussing his craft and those he worked with such as Goodman and Jacobsen. (Jacobsen was at the event, but left before I could talk to him.) After the slideshow, NBM curator Chrysanthe Broikos led a discussion with the photographer.
Lautman, who received the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) Gold Medal for Architectural Photography and is an honorary member of the AIA, described Goodman as a “great mentor” and perfectionist who would send back photographs he did not think were up to par. Lautman described one time he was with Goodman photographing one of the architect’s early works. Goodman, looking admiringly at his own work, said: “Goddamn that’s a beautiful house.”
“To get hooked up at the beginning of my career with one of the most interesting architects, with a kind of pilot modern architect in Washington, was just a stroke of sheer fortune,” Lautman said of Goodman.
Lautman said Goodman would have been “world famous” if he wasn’t such a stickler. Lautman recounted how he had shown some picture of Goodman’s work to editors of House Beautiful who were interested in featuring them in the magazine. Goodman refused, saying he did like the magazine and that they could take a hike.
In 2007, Lautman donated his photographic archives to the National Building Museum. The collection includes more than 30,000 prints, negatives and other items. Broikos said the museum has been conducting oral history interview with Lautman as it catalogues the collection so it can be enjoyed by scholars and the public.