Proto Homes

It's and honor to be interviewed by Proto Homes, one of my favorite home designers and builders, in Los Angles. Back in February of 2015 I spent a month in California working on various projects, including photographing a few Proto Homes. Later this month, I will be back in LA to photograph two more projects. I admire what the company is doing to change the way we think about designing and building a modern home. Proto Homes are made up of prefabricated designed components that are installed and assembled on-site allowing for greater customization and attention to quality. The smart design and building process is taking off and everything about it, simply make sense. Below is the interview of my work featured on the Proto Homes' company blog and newsletter. I also encourage you to head over to the its website to learn more about these exciting California homes.

Founded in 2007 by Frank Vafaee, Proto Homes is made up of architects, engineers and contractors with a shared vision of disrupting the antiquated approach of the homebuilding industry. Developers use our products to maximize their efficiency and protect their margins. Home buyers focus on the simplicity of purchase, ease of process and transparency of pricing.


Proto’s first prototype was developed in 2010 and was soon followed by a steady stream of demand. With 8 years of R&D and 5 years of success in the marketplace, Proto is realizing its expansion potential.
— Protohomes.com
Proto Homes © 2015 JC Buck

Proto Homes © 2015 JC Buck

THE INTERVIEW

HOW DID YOU START IN ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY?

I got my start photographing real estate listings. I had always wanted to work in photography, ever since my first dark room class back in High School. Photography as a business came later for me. I spent a decade plus in the corporate healthcare sector, specifically sales and marketing roles, before deciding to go for it and start a photography studio. Today, my business is focused on architecture and interiors and I mainly document the work of architects, interior designers, developers and commercial businesses.

WHAT IS YOUR CULTURAL AND PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND?

I am third generation American and grew up in Minnesota and spent four years in Brussels, Belgium during my elementary years. My ancestors migrated to the US from England, Scandinavia and Germany. Although, many say I look Italian. My background professionally has been business sales and marketing prior to working as a creative. I have an undergraduate marketing degree from the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and an MBA in Entrepreneurship from the University of Colorado Denver. Despite having a business background, deep down I am a creative person. I have always been, every since I was a little kid. I’m thankful for my experience in the corporate world and business school as its helped me tremendously in building a profitable and sustainable photography studio.

WHAT TYPES OF BUILDINGS DO YOU LIKE TO PHOTOGRAPH THE MOST? COMMERCIAL, RESIDENTIAL?

I love photographing architecture. It’s a challenging subject to work with, despite the simple fact buildings don’t move! I enjoy working with commercial buildings just as much as residential. With residential, I often get to spend time with the owners and learn about what they love about their homes which I enjoy. I view my job as documenting, promoting and serving as an advocate of the architecture I photograph regardless of whether it is a commercial building or a private residence. I am particularly drawn to modern and simplistic designs. I love everything from American Mid Century Modern to the simple and clean minimalistic characteristics of modern Scandinavian design to anything that is very sculptural and outer worldly, like Frank Gerhy’s buildings.

FOR ME, PHOTOGRAPHERS ARE COMMUNICATORS, JOURNALISTS, ADVOCATES AND TELL STORIES USING THE MOST POWERFUL LANGUAGE WE HAVE, IMAGERY.
— JC Buck

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST SOURCE OF INSPIRATION FOR YOU?

I am inspired by all types of creators who successfully build businesses mirroring their passions. In the field of architecture photography specifically, I am drawn to the work of Iwan Baan, Fernando Guerra, Ema Peter, James Silverman and of course, the late Julius Schulman and Ezra Stoller, who were the original God Fathers of American Architectural photography. Schulman and Stoller’s images have been widely credited with influencing the popular Californian Mid Century Modern movement. For me, photographers are communicators, journalists, advocates and tell stories using the most powerful language we have, imagery. The photographers I’ve highlighted all have authoritative visual voices in the architectural space they document. I am mainly driven by this. It’s not enough to make a pretty picture of a building. My goal is to tell a story with each image I make.

YOU HAVE PHOTOGRAPHED QUITE A FEW PREFAB HOMES THROUGHOUT CALIFORNIA. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE ADVANTAGES OF PREFAB CONSTRUCTION OVER TRADITIONAL STICK BUILT HOMES?

For me, prefab homes make so much sense. I’m interested in the design and manufacturing process. The entire process, whether the home is completely prefabricated or each component is and later assembled on site, the workflow just makes sense. As I mentioned, I am drawn to modern design and many of today’s prefab homes, especially coming out California, are very modern. From my perspective, the main advantage is quality control. Of course there can be cost and certainly time advantages to going the prefab route, but quality is what I would care about most. The major negative in the traditional home building process, in my opinion, is the amount of hands that touch a project. There are too many opportunities for things to break down and mistakes to happen. Ask anyone who has built a home whether or not it was on time or budget and you rarely hear that it was.

OF COURSE THERE CAN BE COST AND CERTAINLY TIME ADVANTAGES TO GOING THE PREFAB ROUTE, BUT QUALITY IS WHAT I WOULD CARE ABOUT MOST.
— JC Buck

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT PROTO HOMES?

I love Proto Homes! I was immediately attracted by the design. I like the lines, materials used, and especially the high ceilings with beautiful natural light. One major difference and advantage to the Proto Homes approach is the house doesn’t not need to be transported via tractor trailer. They are assembled on-site. This allows the homes to be bigger and have higher ceilings. Many prefabs that I have been in are typically too narrow due to how they had to be transported and therefore feel too much like a traditional mobile prefab home. People don’t want a prefab home that you can tell is a prefab. When you are in a Proto Home or viewing one from the street, you would never be able to tell it’s a prefab home. I judge any architecture with how the building makes me feel. When you walk into a Proto Home, it just feels good.

I JUDGE ANY ARCHITECTURE WITH HOW THE BUILDING MAKES ME FEEL. WHEN YOU WALK INTO A PROTO HOME, IT JUST FEELS GOOD.
— JC Buck

WHAT IS MOST REWARDING IN ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY?

Nothing is more rewarding in photography than seeing your work in print. The whole reason I am a photographer opposed to a videographer, or both, is to see my work through to the final print. For me, I am a marketer, a promoter, an advocate of the things I am passionate about when it comes to architecture and design. While I enjoy writing and speaking, and have done a great deal of public speaking, for me nothing is more effective than visual imagery in telling stories. Today, we are inundated with images and we are only using images and motion video more and more to communicate because at the end of the day, its so effective. It’s a universal language. When I see my work published and being used in my clients marketing efforts, that is very rewarding.

WHAT ARE YOUR DREAMS CAREER GOALS? DO YOU HAVE ANY EXCITING PROJECTS THAT YOU ARE WORKING ON?

My main goal is to serve as an advocate of architecture and design. I have long term goals of creating an architecture and design print/electronic publication. I also want to start speaking about the projects that I photograph. However, as I grow my studio its important that I am always behind the lens. I want to see my own work through from onsite capture, to post production, to the final print. I have no interest in building out a large studio team and turning my business into a corporation or franchise. 2016 has been very good to me. I have had the opportunity to photograph everything from luxury penthouse condos, to large scale commercial and municipal projects, to even the renovation of a historic mortuary.

Harpa Concert Hall by Henning Larsen Architects © 2016 JC Buck

Harpa Concert Hall by Henning Larsen Architects © 2016 JC Buck

YOU JUST CAME BACK FROM ICELAND; CAN YOU SHARE SOME TIPS ABOUT VISITING THIS BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY? WHAT WAS THE MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE THERE?

Iceland is one of the most amazing places I have ever been to. The landscape is absolutely stunning. Iceland has everything from volcanos to glaciers, to the best geo thermal springs I have experienced! Even better is the hospitality of the Icelandic people. They are beautiful people who have great pride in their heritage and love to welcome tourists. My girlfriend and I went through a company called Escape to Shape. It was a group trip that revolved around health and wellness filled with daily activities and amazing healthy local food. It’s impossible to experience all of Iceland in one trip, but for starters, I definitely recommend at least one full day in Reykjavík to visit the Harpa Concert Hall and Hallgrímskirkja Church, a day trip around the Golden Circle, and eat a lot of fish! Also, do not buy drinking water. Iceland has the best water in the world and the water straight out of the tap is better than any bottled water I’ve had. Lastly, we stayed at the Ion Hotel, rated one of the best design hotels in the world, designed by an Icelandic couple(Minarc) now living in LA. I highly recommend it.