During the inaugural Nashville Design Week, photographer William Abranowicz came to Design Within Reach to speak about his new book, American Originals (Vendome, September, $65), which is a visceral look into the private worlds of some pretty authentic individuals with incredible personal style, including Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi, John Mellencamp, Robert Couturier, Jeffrey Bilhuber, Bette Midler and Martin von Haselberg, Cliff Fong, Mayer Rus, Linda Rodin, Martha Stewart, and Federico de Vera.

“I started the process just before my 60th birthday,” Abranowicz says. “I was approached to go through my archives to come up with a book. But I’m not somebody who would want to go back and rehash my past. And there’s a few stories, but each of the stories meant something to me. I wanted to do a book about people that had an effect on me and over a long period of time and I feel thusly affected an entire generation in the way that they lived rather than in the way that they decorated.”

Abranowicz has been a photographer for 40 years and his work can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Getty Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Menil Collection Library, Bibliothèque Nationale, the International Center of Photography and the Museum of Art at RISD. He served as a contributing photographer to Condé Nast Traveler for twenty-five years.

Nashville Interiors publisher Hollie Deese was lucky enough to be invited to speak with Abranowicz at the Design Within Reach event, not only about his book, but the importance of certain pieces within our space. Together the two discussed how things are not always things, and a piece of furniture can be more than an object – sometimes it can be a part of a bigger journey, the story of us and our family and our place in this world, while we are here and after we are gone.

“History is a very important word to me, the patina of things,” Abranowicz says. “You know what it’s like to photograph a new home that has just been moved into. It might be really beautifully designed or decorated. And to photograph one that someone has lived in for 25 or 30 years … the spirit of a place becomes very different. That history just takes time to develop, that takes a lifetime to develop. And even the best interior designer, even the very best, can’t achieve that, because you cannot do it unless there is time.”

American Originals includes 225 photographs, most never before published, showcased with Abranowicz’s classical sensibility for light, form and composition mingled with his innate curiosity and sense of humor. The result is a stunning, unconventional portrait of these living spaces and workplaces while the text recounts Abranowicz’s personal interactions with his subjects and their homes. Even more special – Abranowicz was able to work with his own son Zander on the book.

Images from American Originals

William Abranowicz in conversation with Hollie Deese at Design Within Reach

Photo credit: Molly Mantlow