By Kristin Boza
Mati Maldre moved to Beverly/Morgan Park 42 years ago and serendipitously landed in a gorgeous home designed by Walter Burley Griffin, an architect, landscape architect, and planner who designed numerous homes throughout Illinois, Iowa, and Australia.
Maldre began photographing his extraordinary home, ultimately leading to an expansive career of travel to capture the essence of Griffin-designed homes in Illinois and Australia.
His newest photography exhibit, “Griffin Architecture in America and Australia” is available online at GriffinSociety.org/Mati-Maldre-Exhibition. The exhibit contains 50 photographs taken in the 1980s and early 1990s by Maldre, who is an Emeritus Professor of Art/Photography at Chicago State University.
The Walter Burley Griffin Society explains that Griffin’s work was created in the “Spirit of Nature” and reflects geometric and abstract patterns found in nature into his structure designs. Griffin’s style and spirit are kindred subjects for Maldre’s creativity and skill as a photographer.
“Beverly was the perfect place for us to look when we decided we needed more space,” Maldre said. “I found our home, a Griffin house, and was in awe of the beamed ceilings, centralized fireplace, and other incredible details. I started photographing my home and other interesting places in the neighborhood. I’ve been shooting architecture since I was a student at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1967.”
Maldre and his late wife, Kathy, married in 1969 and moved to the South Side in 1972, when he was hired at Chicago State to initiate the photography courses with the art department, where he worked for 35 years and added 12 photography courses to the roster. He also worked at the Beverly Arts Center as the first photography teacher there.
“I’m very proud of the fact that I initiated Chicago State’s photography courses. I also really enjoyed working with children and adults at the BAC to teach them to use their cameras and work in the dark room,” he said.
After caring for his ill wife for years, Maldre’s sons, Erik and Matthew, helped him learn Photoshop and his digital photography work evolved.
Examples of this new technique are on display in the Ridge Historical Society’s current exhibit, “The Hetherington Design Dynasty,” for which Maldre photographed homes designed by three generations of Hetherington family architects who lived and worked in Beverly/Morgan Park.
“I scanned most of my negatives to make them digital and my work displayed at the Ridge Historical Society are all inkjet prints from digital files,” he said. “Two years ago, I never thought that I would find digital prints to match the quality of a gelatin silver photograph made in a dark room. I can honestly say I’m really proud of those pictures at RHS and think they look just as good as my silver prints.”
Maldre’s own Griffin house led him to search out all other Griffin-designed homes to photograph. Maldre and the University of Illinois Press received a grant from the Graham Foundation for the Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts to photograph and publish “Walter Burley Griffin in America.”
written by architectural historian Paul Kruty, in 1996. “To me, it was a very natural thing to do. I’m a photographer and enjoy working outdoors and shooting buildings with a view camera. Because of my body of work and the portfolio I put together of the Griffin buildings, I received another Graham Foundation Grant and a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Grant to head to Australia to photograph the Griffin homes there. [Griffin designed many important buildings, not just homes.] . I met a lot of interesting people there and it was a great experience.”
Now an active volunteer at the Ridge Historical Society (RHS) and chairman of the RHS Historic Buildings Committee, Maldre remains committed to showcasing the beauty of the neighborhood architecture. He received a commission from BAPA in the late 1980s to photograph local homes for an exhibit through the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and he has exhibited his work in shows at the BAC as well as RHS. “How many communities in the city have their own historical society? That’s just one other reason why I love this community,” Maldre said.
Maldre serves on the Board of Directors for the Walter Burley Griffin Society of America, and he has organized two lectures and tours here in Beverly/Morgan Park for Griffin enthusiasts. “People always comment on what a wonderful jewel our neighborhood is and they love observing the architecture in our community. I developed a regular tour of prairie school buildings and my Australian friends came to see it. There’s more to Chicago south of Hyde Park and I’m happy to have people from all over notice our neighborhood.”
Now that his children, including daughter Kristina, are grown and moved out to the suburbs, they try to encourage him to move closer. But, he’s not ready just yet and instead loves showing his grandchildren around our community.
In addition to viewing the new the online exhibit, visit the current Hetherington Design Dynasty exhibit Ridge Historical Society, 10621 S. Seeley Ave., Tuesdays and Sundays, 1 to 4 p.m.
Maldre is also one of three speakers addressing issues if historic home research, photography, and design in programs set for Fridays, Nov. 4, 11, and 18 at RHS. Email email@example.com for more information.