On September 15, 2009, I drove from Columbus, Ohio to Boston, Massachusetts. On September 16 I made the return trip. Roughly 25 hours of driving in a 36 hour period. The reason? The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston had granted me permission to photograph the serving table from the Freeman Ford house while it was there as part of the Gamble house centennial exhibition. Thirteen months earlier, I had made a similarly whirlwind trip to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. There were other, less grueling trips to Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and St. Louis. There were three trips to California one of which included driving a circuit from Pasadena to Berkeley to Carmel and back.
I have no idea how many hours I spent driving, photographing, researching and writing. It's probably best that way. If I could divide any income to be derived from this venture by the number of hours invested, I would certainly be in violation of minimum wage laws. But no one with any sense undertakes a project such as this for money. Nor do they do it for fame. Neither is a likely outcome. So what causes someone to do this? For me, and I suspect for others, the reason is quite simple: a love for the work of Charles and Henry Greene, a profound respect for their many accomplishments and a desire to share the beauty and inspiration with others. I can't imagine any other professional circumstance for which I would drive 1550 miles in a day and a half. The fact is, despite the long hours and bleary eyes, I loved every minute of it.
There are many ways to label the last two years, the time during which I've worked on this book. They have been a tremendous learning experience. To be sure, they have been a lot of hard work. However, the way I think about these years is that they have been a genuine privilege. It has been a privilege to meet so many wonderful people. Without exception, every homeowner, curator, registrar, librarian and staff member has been gracious and generous. It has been a privilege to work with my editor, David Thiel. His enthusiasm for this book, and his willingness to compromise in pursuit of an uncompromised result, has made this process a pleasure. It has been a privilege to share this experience with those brave enough to undertake to read this, the end result of these years. Foremost, however, is the privilege of witnessing firsthand the incredible houses and furniture designed by Charles and Henry Greene.
Anyone who has read this far must understand that this is not a critical work. It was never my purpose to turn an impartial eye toward Greene & Greene, to evaluate their output objectively. I am a convert, an unabashed zealot. Though not generally given to proselytizing, I embarked on a crusade, albeit one with a modest goal. If a few readers gain an appreciation for the work of the Greenes through this book then the effort will have been entirely rewarding.
This process has given me a greatly increased respect for writers. Writing is work. Writing well is arduous. Beginning is almost impossible. This is not intended as complaint. It is, however, humbling to recognize that all of the agony over how to organize the information, all of the internal debates about word choice, all of the hours spent reading and rewriting are of little consequence. The photographs, and by extension the houses and furniture, are far more important. To say that a photograph is worth a thousand words is to sell the photograph short. No words can sufficiently describe the work depicted by the photos in this book. To put it another way, it is not difficult to imagine this book with photos but no text but it is impossible to imagine it with text but no photos. This has, of course, been a great gift. In the end, no one will remember what's been written here. All they will remember is the beauty and grace created by a small number of men a century ago. And that is exactly as it should be.