This week’s featured project is an interesting switch-up from our typical Project of the Week offerings, and it is a great reminder that personal projects can have a huge impact on your career and body of work. Today we’ll be checking out this collaborative project by Arizona-based architectural photographers Alex Rentzis and Kevin Kaminski. Alex set out to photograph a batch of little-known historic neighborhoods in Phoneix for his photo book Historic Homes in the Heart of Phoenix. Along the way, he enlisted the help of Kevin, and now the finished project has great local accolades – and is even available to take out from their public library!
Alex explains how the project came about, sharing “I have lived in the Willo Historic District of Phoenix, Arizona for the past 8 years. My wife and I love historic homes and living in the vicinity of the downtown Phoenix area we are also surrounded by other historic districts recognized by the city. As an architectural photographer, I love walking our historic neighborhoods and taking in the diversity of the historic districts since they all offer unique glimpses into our city’s relatively young history. Not many outsiders, yet alone Phoenix residents, are actually aware that we have historic districts which represent homes from approximately 1900 – 1940.
Having volunteered to photograph many of these homes for various annual home tours ( Willo has the largest annual home tour drawing thousands of people every February ) I finally decided to take on a project photographing these beautiful homes for a book.”
“My goal was to document, preserve and educate people on our beautiful yet undiscovered historic districts,” he goes on. “To my surprise, this scale of a project had never been attempted. My idea was to take 6 high-end homes from each of the 4 historic districts that are in the vicinity. These are Willo, Roosevelt, Encanto-Palmcroft, and FQ Story. As I started contemplating the project, the sheer scale started to overwhelm me. I slowly put together a team of volunteers that would eventually make this project the success it has become. Tricia Amato had publishing and project management experience, John Jacquemart is a local Phoenix historian who collaborated with our fabulous writer, Allison Hawley. And finally, I recruited my friend Kevin Kaminski, a fellow architectural photographer. The team met weekly for almost a year with the common goal of getting the book to the Publisher in time for the 2021 Holiday season.”
Alex speaks on the process of getting access to the homes “I had made acquaintances from the historic neighborhoods through various photo shoots and it was by word of mouth that the team slowly started gathering the homes that were finally featured in the book. The process of getting the buy-in from homeowners was complicated by the pandemic (2020-2021) so photographing indoors was a real challenge while wearing masks and keeping social distance. Once we secured the 24 homes that were going to be in the book, Kevin and I had to divide the photo shoots in order to meet our publishing goals. Kevin’s workload included real paying jobs so his time was limited and he eventually photographed about a third of the homes, especially the ones where he lives – which is FQ Story.”
Alex explains that one challenge they had to face along the way was getting their photographs to look cohesive despite his and Kevin’s differing styles. He says, “We also had to coordinate a similar look and feel to the final images. We both have our own photographic styles and methods but to make the final images look consistent we compromised on the final post-production settings but let our individuality flow during the shoots. The final images were judged by Kevin and I along with Tricia who had extensive photography experience. The images in the book were enhanced by great stories written by Allison as she interviewed the homeowners about the history of their homes and why they chose to live in a historic home. We were also able to have our former Mayor, Terry Goddard, write the foreword to the book. Terry was a champion in preserving many of our historic homes and structures during his time as Mayor.”
Alex was happy to share that the historic home project was a huge success, telling “In 2022, the book which we named, Historic Homes in the Heart of Phoenix, received the Governor’s Heritage Preservation Honor Award which to me finally solidified my original goals of the book. To this day we have sold about 750 copies of the book and have gone through a 3rd printing.” Not only is the book available for purchase, but it also is available at the Phoenix Public Library, which is pretty dang cool for a photo book!
This project is yet another great reminder to get out there and start making personal projects – who knows what clients you’ll land, or what library you’ll end up in!
If you have a project you’d like to be considered for Project of the Week, you can submit it here.