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Hollywood Photography of Ray & Charles Eames Subject of New Exhibit

Behind-the-scenes snaps show the influence of photography on their design process

Charles Eames’s contributions span art forms, but for influential designer, photography may have been one of his first loves. He snapped photos nearly his entire life, starting when his father gave him a camera at age 12. Billy Wilder, the famed director and Eames friend, called him a "photo maniac." This obsession is the subject of a new exhibition, Eames & Hollywood, which showcases the photography of Charles and his wife and fellow design Ray Eames, on display at the Art & Design Atomium Museum in Brussels, Belgium until September 4.


According to curator Alexandra Midal, the series, simply known as Movie Sets, was only displayed once, in 1971. Consisting of 240 slides, the collection documents numerous visits to the sets of Wilder’s films. These weren’t just courtesy visits, says Midal, who came upon these photos while looking the the Eames massive photo archive. Shot between 1951 and 1971, these photos show Eames working almost like a director, framing images and working to get the right shot. Eames would travel to San Diego and Texas to explore and document film sets. Like some of the other film series Ray and Charles Eames are known for, such as their Day of the Dead imagery of the "Tank" series, shots of aquariums done as research for a never-completed national aquarium, they suggest the role that photography and images had on their creative process and workflow.

"The language of photography can be found throughout their work," she says. "They’re the most popular designers of the 20th century, and this was a big influence. Charles had a saying, ‘When you went to see Billy [Wilder] shooting a film, it wasn’t to teach you how to shoot a film, but it taught you how to design a chair and create architecture.’ To Eames, Wilder was part of his education."