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A Marriage Made in Heaven: An Interview with Gregg Rutter

Elizabeth Maske December 15th, 2023
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Taliesin lit up by Gregg Rutter 2023

An interest in Wright’s creations and a passion for photography brought Gregg Rutter to Taliesin’s workshop this summer. “I had two motivations,” Gregg clarifies. “One was just a love of Frank Lloyd Wright. Ever since I was a little kid. I loved Frank Lloyd Wright, and I visited a lot of his structures….The second was photography. I am retired now and have been focusing much of my energy on developing my photography skills. So the two were just a marriage made in heaven.” 

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Statue from Wright's Asian Collection by Gregg Rutter 2023

The journey was not a new one. Gregg has visited Taliesin several times before, but always from the vantage point of a guided tour, where the constraints of time and pace, even on the four-hour tour, conspired against the meticulous eye of a photographer. “I was always bringing up the rear,” he said. “You don’t want to have the group wait for me to take a picture.”

This time, however, the script was different. The overnight photography workshop granted him both access and ample time to set up his desired shot. “Having full access to the full site around the clock was amazing. That’s what made it so incredible.”

Gregg’s early fascination with photography started with a Kodak Instamatic, then a 35mm Pentax, and grew from there. “In fact, I did a school project when I was in the 10th grade,” Gregg recalls, “where my mission was to go to every Frank Lloyd Wright structure in the state of Minnesota and photograph it and document it.”

He even made it to Taliesin with his family, and those childhood memories still resonated. “I had been there as a little kid with my parents. As a matter of fact, my dad grew up in a small town not too far from there in Ferryville, Wisconsin, and my mom was a teacher at a Spring Green school—well, I don’t think for very long, you know, well before I was born—it would have been, in the late 1940s. So there are some family roots in that area. The first time I went to Taliesin was with my parents—just so much of that experience stuck with me. Just seeing the spaces and the arrangements of the flowers cut from the area there that had been brought into the space…. And I’ll never forget seeing the Hillside Drafting Studio for the first time…. It never gets old.”

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Romeo and Juliet Windmill beneath the Milky Way by Gregg Rutter 2023

Gregg’s architectural pursuits, kindled by those early encounters, led him to study the craft at the University of Minnesota, and he never lost that connection to Frank Lloyd Wright. “In 2019, I went to see Fallingwater for the first time,” he recounted. “That was something my father and I talked about going together to see. Then he passed away in 2017.”

Taliesin was also not Gregg’s first time lodging in a Wright-designed building, having stayed in Minnesota’s Lindholm house. “No, it wasn’t the first time,” Gregg laughed, “But it was the second!” This time, Gregg found himself staying at Tan-y-Deri, the home Wright designed for his sister, an experience that he described as “so special.” It’s evident that Gregg’s visit to Taliesin was more than just a workshop; it was a return to a place that held a particular place in his heart.

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Hillside Drafting Studio by Gregg Rutter 2023

The fellowship among participants, each staying in unique corners of the estate, mirrored the collaborative spirit of the architectural visionaries who once frequented these grounds alongside Wright. “To stay on the estate itself, first of all, it was just a big overall feeling of being there that is transformative… and then because you’re there at all hours, you can catch the light at the right times…so we did the sunrise and sunset, which is when you get the best colors….And then having the classroom in the drafting studio was incredible as well. Just working in the studio with so many other people!”

For Gregg, the workshop was also an opportunity to fine-tune his skills, “The one thing I wanted to work on was composition, mostly. It was really refining some of those elements. That helped me, and Andrew was such a wonderful guy.” He contemplates the prospect of returning to Taliesin, expressing his desire to shift focus from exterior photography and chase a new personal goal: “I think I would like to do it again and maybe focus on interior photography because I think that is a whole different ball game.”

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Midway Barn by Gregg Rutter 2023

Gregg’s access to the estate allowed him opportunities to dive deeper into less familiar corners of Taliesin, like Midway Barn. “One of the places that I got to spend more time in that I hadn’t in the past was the Midway Barn. And how fascinating is that building?! I’d love to learn more about it.” 

In Gregg’s eyes, visiting Taliesin is unparalleled. He urges, “If you have an interest in architecture and photography, you can’t pass this one up.” As the conversation drew to a close with a “we hope to see you again,” Gregg remarked, “I think you will,” with what I imagined to be a knowing smile on the opposite end of the telephone.