Sophia Loren in Miami

I’ve just been alerted that an article I had photographed for Architectural Digest Magazine in 1995 is appearing again in the magazine’s online site. Here’s the link:

Architectural Digest Visits Sophia Loren in Miami

As a photographer, it’s satisfying to learn that your work of the past still holds interest for today’s readers. But that’s always and especially true when the story involves a celebrity. And this one’s not only about your average celeb but an icon in the world of film.

Back then I had received a call from the assignment editor at Architectural Digest that the actress, Sophia Loren, had an apartment in South Florida. That wasn’t news to me because I had been hired to photograph that very apartment for its interior designer, Ted Fine, and I had recently completed the shoot. Architectural Digest had seen the photos and wanted to use them in a story. As an AD Contributing Photographer, I was regularly assigned shoots in South Florida as well as at locations throughout the Caribbean. The photographs of Sophia’s apartment hadn’t been published anywhere yet and when the call came from AD, I was able to assure the magazine that it would be the first to publish them. But AD wanted more than just those interior design shots. Sophia herself had agreed to appear in the story and that’s why the magazine was now calling. She had promised the magazine to make herself available for a shoot in the apartment.

That assignment would become a memorable day for me. Sophia posed for my camera in four different areas of the apartment. She would appear styled differently for various activities which included dressed to go out, casually relaxing at home and, most interestingly, in her kitchen preparing a meal. I learned that she had authored a cookbook and was used to shopping her ingredients at Lorenzo’s Market in North Miami Beach.

Being the consummate pro, she treated me and my crew with the utmost respect and was surprisingly generous with her time, She was happy to dress and prep herself without the aid of a personal stylist and was ready-to-go for four individual scenes. She asked for nothing more than our input and approval as to her apparel for each setup. I have to thank my wife, Loretta, whose artistry and experience in the garment industry bore fruit that day. My skills are elsewhere, but Loretta boldly stepped to the plate and became the actress’s advisor for each appearance.

The most challenging setup was the scene in the kitchen where it would appear that she was preparing a meal for friends. We had learned she was quite used to doing this (knowing a local resource like Lorenzo’s for example). Loretta came up with the idea of Sophia making her own pasta and to pose her working a pasta machine. Loretta is a very experienced amateur chef, and since that kitchen had few accessories, she brought her own pasta machine from home along with an assortment pots and dough prepping materials. All that remained was the sheet of dough and the rolled pasta to come out of the machine in the shape of linguine. No, we didn’t actually make it from scratch – we purchased sheets of pasta from Lorenzo’s Market and they stood in very well. On the day of the shoot, Loretta, her star-struck emotions in check, stood with the actress helping her set up the “pasta making scene” – and we had it! In addition to the shot for the magazine, a black and white polaroid of Loretta Forer and Sophia Loren together in the kitchen is a wonderful souvenir of that day!

Loretta & Sophia Captioned 4

Olympia Theatre Graces the Cover of The Villager’s Yearbook

villager directory 2014 cover


The Olympia Theatre, a restored 1920s “Picture Palace” in downtown Miami, appears on the current cover of the yearbook of  THE VILLAGERS, an organization dedicated to the preservation of Miami’s historic structures.


3630-07 ©2002 Dan Forer

The structure, completed in 1926 by architect John Eberson, had amazed the public of the time with its stunning Moorish architecture, perfect acoustics and a simulated night sky complete with wafting clouds and twinkling stars. It’s one of the few Eberson buildings around the world still standing.


3630-09 ©2002 Dan Forer

It was saved in 1975 by philanthropist Maurice Gusman and thanks to early restoration work by famed architect Morris Lapidus, in 1984 it was named to the National Register of Historic Places


I had the honor to photograph the project for Miami architect Richard Heisenbottle, a well-known restoration specialist. He researched the archives for photographs showing the building’s original appearance.


3630-10 ©2002 Dan Forer

Experts drilled through decades of the wall’s paint layers to sample and reveal the original colors. It’s been an ongoing project for Heisenbottle that has, thanks to work over the years, seen the theatre’s visual charm and practical use revived. The Olympia is a glorious exemplar of Miami’s past.

3630-04 ©2002 Dan Forer

A Study in Style – Cher’s Vision in Miami Beach

It’s been my mission through the years I’ve spent photographing residential interior design to interpret the work of the artist-designers who’ve trusted me to record their creations. From the crisp, clean modernism of today to the revival of a style from the past, these homes all have a common theme: that the homeowner wishes to live surrounded by beauty as he or she personally sees it. They each and all are special.

When the assignment came from Architectural Digest Magazine to photograph Cher’s home in Miami Beach, I found myself in a place rooted in the past. Although modern in most functional respects, the mood of the home was a combination of Middle Ages meets Renaissance meets North Africa. With much of the furniture and accessories of her own design, Cher had created a warm and romantic feeling. Sheltered in an architecture of arches, columns, mysterious hallways and winding stairs, the home is an example of a very personal vision, one all her own.


The Entry Foyer flanked by stairways leading to the home’s private areas

The Entry Foyer flanked by stairways leading to the home’s private areas


In the foyer the mystery begins. I felt the best time of day to shoot this space would be at dusk when the subtle tones of low kelvin interior lighting and candlelight would predominate. Actually, the shot was set up at night and we waited for the blue light of dawn outside to light up the windows and doorway. This blue effect outside helped emphasize and contrast the warmth inside. I attempted to make the interior surfaces appear as though they had been lit by existing built-in sources. In reality, these real sources weren’t enough to convey the effect I wanted, so I had to provide my own lighting. My goal when doing this is to make it seem as though I’ve added nothing; the effect being a natural part of the scene.


The Master Bedroom

The Master Bedroom


Although the Master Bedroom could have been photographed to great advantage at night, just like the Foyer, I felt that, in this case I could take advantage of the sunlight flooding in during the day.  In this way I would provide some contrast for the art director designing the layout;  moving away from the mystery and drama of the night look and contrasting it with a “natural” day lit scene. Of course, the word “natural” is only what seems to be. As usual, I bring in my own lighting to make the image work. But the effect in the scene’s light is again, natural.


The Living Room at dusk looks out to the nearby waterway

The Living Room at dusk looks out to the nearby waterway


Cher’s collection of objects represented many different styles. But the overall effect was of a world traveler who collected as she roamed. So it was important for me to focus on and illustrate the artifacts and artworks which adorned the home. I did this in the main Living Room area as well as in her Bedroom and Study.


Personal treasured objects and artworks detailed in the Living Room

Personal treasured objects and artworks detailed in the Living Room


I was intrigued by the mysterious entry and hallway leading to the Master Bedroom. The arched door and ceiling gave further emphasis to the Renaissance period mood. Looking though the door towards a far sunlit window past sconces and dramatic single sculpture drew me in. Shooting a one-point perspective further dramatized that feeling.


Arched doorway leading to the Master Bedroom

Arched doorway leading to the Master Bedroom


Columns everywhere; plain ones and fluted ones with ornate capitols, wonderful to use as frames to the compositions of many shots. Here in the Dining Room was an incredible table setting, overflowing with objects.


An ornate Dining Room flanked by columns

An ornate Dining Room flanked by columns


I needed to do a closeup so that the details of the settings could be better understood. look at the tiny blossoms and rose petals dropped everywhere!


A Dining Room place setting adorned with rose petals

A Dining Room place setting adorned with rose petals


The courtyard to the home ensured a measure of privacy for a celebrity whose fans were curious about her lifestyle. But, in the end it couldn’t ensure it absolutely. Tourist boats plying the waterway behind the home would come in close, loudspeakers blaring, announcing the star’s presence. That may have been the straw that broke. She sold the house some years after this shoot.


Privacy insured by a walled Entry Courtyard

Privacy insured by a walled Entry Courtyard




Richard Branson’s Island Paradise

3033 Bali High 04

Bali High

The trip to Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands starts off with some very difficult obstacles. As the photographer with an assignment from Architectural Digest Magazine to shoot Sir Richard Branson’s private island, I’m faced with the responsibility of getting myself, my crew and all my gear to the site. This was in the day before digital photography when shooting on film required more equipment than today

3033-08 Necker Isl  Photo by Dan Forer

First of all, there’s no landing strip at Necker; it can only be reached by boat. Second, the island to which you do fly has, to say the least, a rather short runway. Did I mention the mountain at the end of it? No?

Well, it’s there and that means that only certain aircraft fly in; smaller aircraft can, with less room for cargo. And all this means that I’ve got to keep my equipment needs under control; minimize them so that I’ll be accommodated on the airline I choose.

Once I’ve figured all this out, the trip goes as follows:

I, my assistants and my stylist and all my gear fly out of Miami to St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands, the one with the mountain at the end of the runway. There I’ve contracted a smaller, twin-engine propeller-type aircraft into which I transfer us and our gear. Now it’s a short hop to the British Virgin Island of Tortola. Not really Tortolla but tiny Beef Island which abuts Tortolla’s east end. Land there and unload the stuff into a VW van and a cart. The van drives and we push the cart several hundred yards to a nearby dock where our last transport is waiting, an open 40 ft. fishing boat. After once again transferring the gear onto the stern of that boast, it’s off across the turquoise waters of Sir Francis Drake Channel and on to 74 acre Necker Island. It’s situated a few miles off the shore of Virgin Gorda, which is visible on the horizon.

3033-07 Necker Isl  Photo by Dan Forer

Once docked at Necker Island, we unload the boat and lug the gear (did I mention it’s 16 cases plus personal luggage) up a challenging set of stairs to the platform of the thatch-roofed main house. I and my tired crew have reached Sir Richard Branson’s island paradise.

3033-04 Necker Isl  Photo by Dan Forer

But I’ve been here before. Actually several months before the trip above I travelled to Necker to familiarize myself with the place and to meet and photograph Sir Richard for the upcoming story. The visit was his idea and he covered our expenses for that trip. I traveled with my assistant and we were put up in one of Necker Island’s most beautiful structures, a tall pagoda-styled building overlooking the sea called Bali High (remember Bloody Mary singing about it in “South Pacific”?).

3033-08 Necker Isl  Photo by Dan Forer

What a wonderful few days that was. Much of it was spent exploring the island through a network of trails, which led to its eastern tip. There the constant trade winds blow so hard that the sea birds hung aloft above our heads with their wings absolutely still maintaining lift solely from the power of that unceasing wind. We were encouraged to experience it as the birds did. We stood, feet apart and still, leaning into it, trusting that it wouldn’t let us down. I mean “down” literally since we were on a cliff-top with nothing but the sea at our feet some fifty feet below. We did, and it didn’t fail us.

3033-14 Necker Isl  Photo by Dan Forer
Back at the main house (the large thatched roofed structure), Sir Richard was taking a holiday break with his wife and kids. The kids had been encouraged to invite some of their friends from back in England and the whole, raucous assemblage were entertaining themselves with all the water sports the island had to offer. My assistant and I were simply one of the crowd and were made to feel entirely at home in Sir Richard’s world.

3033-16 Necker Isl  Photo by Dan Forer


I was directed in my assignment to get a shot of Sir Richard somewhere on the island and I found the perfect place near a hammock hung between two wood columns on a balcony overlooking the sea with the mountainous profile of Virgin Gorda in the distance. It was a quick setup without the inconvenience of needing extra lighting (which I hadn’t brought anyway). With Sir Richard and his two kids posed naturally and comfortably in and around the hammock, I snapped a few frames and it was over. They needed no encouragement from me to look absolutely happy with where they were and what they were doing. A very happy family snapshot!

Richard Branson & Kids at Necker

Once that was done, Sir Richard, acceding to his kids’ request, asked if I would shoot them and their mates all piled around the hammock for a personal souvenir. Of course I did that shot for them. Some months later I received a personal note from him thanking me for that extra effort. From my experience of those few days, I’ve thought of Richard Branson as one of the most welcoming, down-to-earth people I’ve met on assignment.

3033 Hammock Photo by Dan Forer

The next day while I continued working on my future shot list, the families of all Sir Richard’s Necker employees were ferried over from Virgin Gorda to join the Bransons for a day of fun in the pool and on the beaches with a picnic thrown in. Branson himself was in the pool giving swimming lessons to a bunch of his employee’s kids.

3033-06 Necker Isl  Photo by Dan Forer


Back to the actual shoot trip; we waited until that summer’s hurricane season had passed and returned with all our gear for the principal photography. But Necker had paid a price that summer. We found the island had been hit in July by Bertha, one of that Summer’s hurricanes. I had to design my shots to avoid areas where repair was taking place such as the roof which was being re-thatched. Along the shoreline, the leaves of trees that had been attacked by the storm tide had mostly turned brown or had fallen off entirely.

3033 Bali High 06 Photo by Dan Forer


The rest of the shoot, however, went off without a hitch. I especially remember Loretta, my wife and the stylist for the shoot, patiently setting the dinner scene with perfect napkin folds for each of the twenty-one place settings. Every accessory, every floral element, every object that makes each shot look natural; these she controlled. The stylist is the unsung hero of the shoot whose imagination paints the perfect picture that we see.


3033-09 Necker Isl  Photo by Dan Forer

Miami – Will the Starchitects Align

Alastair Gordon, a Distinguished Fellow at the FIU School of Architecture, wrote an in-depth article for the Sunday 2/15 Miami Herald. In it he criticizes Miami’s expanding skyline and brings attention to the helter skelter rush of developers and their “starchitects” cashing in on the resurgence of Miami’s potential which suffered so during the recent recession. He pokes fun at the cacophony of styles, each vying to “out-modern” each other. Twisted towers “corkscrewing up to the heavens . . . lurching their way to a nervous breakdown . . . something like dueling tornadoes” with “skypools and frameless water views”. “Miami” he says, “ forges ahead in its own translucent bubble, now bursting at the seams . . .” He quotes architect Frank Gehry as saying, “98 percent of everything that is built and designed today is pure shit”.

That may not be entirely so. Gordon does have nice things to say about the new Perez Art Museum which “ . . . foreswearing the tall and monolithic in favor of the everyday and horizontal . . . inspired by mangrove roots, banyan trees and the modest . . “. Or architect Hilario Candela’s Miami Marine Stadium (soon to be restored), “ . . . which straddles both land and sea with seamless equanimity . . . “.

Gordon quotes Joan Didion on Miami of the 80s: “buildings seemed to swim free against the sky”. And he writes ”. . . early skyscrapers in New York and Chicago drew energy up from the earth”. Now, he says, “ . . . recent hi rises of Miami seem to dangle downwards, hardly touching the earth at all”.  ”When all is finished, the whole thing will be politically incorrect . . . surprisingly formulaic, out-of-date and unsustainable . . . offering no public space, community services, income mix or environmental mediation . . .” .
What a pity. We’re in for a bleak future. And that’s not to even mention the effects of global warming. Miami is truly the canary in the mine. Those around at the turn of the next century may look back on our hubris and wonder, “what the hell were they thinking?!”.

For the Miami Herald article, go to: http:

What’s in a Shoot – Napkin Folding 101

There are a lot of things that take place in a photo-shoot. Only one of the many is actual photographing. How about napkin folding? When you’ve got over 30, 6-seat restaurant tables to set, you’d better know how to fold napkins. That’s why a prepared photographer has napkin folds memorized – or better yet, in a book he can access when the need arises. And such a need did arise recently when I photographed the new teaching space at the Hospitality School Campus of FIU in North Miami. A gorgeous establishment with interiors by Echeverria Design Group and architecture by M C Harry Assoc. It’s more a luxury restaurant than a school training site. But then that’s the level most students aspire to and this place will definitely provide them the atmosphere for that kind of experience. All the tables and chairs were there of the day of the shoot – but table items were still in their original packing boxes having just been delivered to the site. So most of the first day was spent arranging the layout, unpacking and setting tablecloths, flatware, silverware, stemware and, with the help of a stylist, 38 floral centerpieces. Then came the napkins that required an elegant fold. From my book I chose a fold called, “The Havanna” and we proceeded to fold the 200+ napkins needed for the shoot.
Moral: An interiors photographer can never be “too” prepared.

An Architectural Gem Rediscovered

Finally, a comprehensive, fully illustrated book on Florida’s famous Singing Tower, “Bok Tower and Gardens, America’s Taj Mahal”. This site was one of Florida’s principal attractions in the first half of the 20th century. It is an example of the Golden Age of Architecture, among the worlds most beautiful buildings. Located on a hilltop among orange groves in the center of the state near Lake Wales, its creation was a gift to the public from one of America’s early 20th Century publishing geniuses, Edward Bok (Ladies Home Journal). The beautiful gardens were designed by Fredrick Law Olmsted, Jr. (whose father had designed Central Park), and the tower housing the carillon was designed by Milton Bennett Medary in what author, Kenneth Treister identifies as the “National Romantic Style”. Mr. Treister was aided in his research by David Price, president of The Bok Tower Gardens Foundation. With a forward by Derek Bok, grandson of Edward Bok and former president of Harvard and an epilogue by Florida Governor and Senator, Bob Graham, the book at last fills a void by exploring in detail a treasure that identified with the mystique of Florida in the first half of the 20th Century.
My contribution to the book was the photography which the publisher, Rizolli, reproduced with the utmost care. The coffee table book will be released nationwide in October but can be found today at the Bok Tower & Gardens Center on-site.

Dan Forer – About Architectural and Interiors Photography

This is my very first blog – really! I’m told that it’s important in a blog to write about things that will be of interest to the public, to those who may come across this blog in their internet wanderings. I find myself wondering what can be so special about these words, my thoughts on the subject of photography, and especially of architectural photography. It’s been the work that has fascinated and occupied my days and many of my nights for over forty years. So here goes . . .

Much of my time in photography has been spent trying to figure out how to make the impossible, possible – to transport a viewer to a place he‘s not physically in. It’s more about communicating “feeling” than anything else. How can a person really “feel” a presence in a place brought to him via the two dimensions of a screen or a piece of paper? My view is that it’s primarily about light. Our sense of light and dark are the prime senses we rely on to navigate in the real world, so it makes sense to me that this primal sense is the same that affects our perception of a two dimensional image. And isn’t all photography itself simply the capturing of light?

So I’ve basically become a “lighting guy”, a person who paints and sculpts with light. Every image I create is in some way a product of the opportunistic capturing of available light or the manipulation of added light, or a combination of the two. And to make the end product seem real and natural, to communicate that sense to the viewer, that’s the challenge of my craft.

I have had zillions of experiences in this realm of light and I’ll share some of my more curious and demanding ones in future blogs. Keep tuned . . .

Dan Forer Architectural Photographer Miami, Florida