Perth-born, Melbourne-based photographer Jack Lovel knows the work of Iwan Iwanoff all too well: Lovel grew up in the Jordanoff House, a home designed in 1954 by the seminal Bulgarian-born architect, who died in Perth in 1986. This month, Lovel premieres The Architecture of Iwan Iwanoff, Through the Lens of Jack Lovel, an exhibition documenting 20 Iwanoff homes around Perth.
“Some of my first memories are in that house,” Lovel says. “When I went back to photograph it, it was the first time I’d stepped foot in there since I was four or five years old. My memories of it were really accurate, particularly some of the smaller, specific details: things you wouldn’t think you’d remember 30 years later.”
Since starting the project two years ago, Lovel has made “something like 15 or 20 trips” to Perth to meet home owners and shoot houses. The photographer says connecting with families occupying the homes has been key to the project.
“I spent a lot of time researching the houses and contacting as many of the owners as I could find,” he says. “I had to write them letters because the street address was the only information I had, and that was kind of a lovely process. When I started getting responses, I took a trip to Perth, I didn’t even take a camera. I just wanted to connect with people. I went to the houses, had a chat, and heard so many stories about their connections to these places. That process was crucial to really do the idea justice.”
Iwanoff arrived in Fremantle in the 1950s and used international design and construction techniques to revitalise Western Australia’s architectural scene. His trademark mid-century homes have developed a cult following in Perth and are scattered across inner-city suburbs such as Mount Lawley, Dianella, Karrinyup, City Beach and Floreat. But just as Iwanoff indelibly changed Western Australia, Western Australia also left its mark on him.
“The isolation of Perth, I believe, actually gave Iwanoff a lot of freedom,” says Lovel. “Its geographical landscape gave him a certain scope to work with and reflect, stylistically. My intention is to show his work, factoring in Perth’s kind of harsh, stark light and suburban landscape.”
While much of Lovel’s work showcases polished, flawlessly arranged abodes, his priority was representing Iwanoff homes accurately and honestly.
“I really wanted to keep the work as accurate as possible as to how the homes actually are, 50 or 60 years on,” says Lovel. “From a technical perspective it’s been difficult to create a really cohesive body of work. There’s multiple subjects, different orientations, different physical landscapes and differing stages of repair. But I think it’s come together nicely.”
An accomplished residential and commercial architectural photographer, Lovel could be forgiven for being blasé about a well-designed home, yet he remains reverent.
“Iwanoff’s homes represent a truly exceptional body of architectural work,” he says. “I want to shine a light on it and emphasize how these homes are unique to Perth. Hopefully the exhibition really does justice to the remaining relics of his life’s work.”
The Architecture of Iwan Iwanoff, Through the Lens of Jack Lovel is on show at There Is Studio (49 Stuart Street, Northbridge) from June 20 to 30. The exhibition is open daily from 10am to 3pm and entry is free.