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Lunch with Randall Whitehead

Posted on: Jun 16, 2011

Digital 101: A New Light on the Horizon

One of the few positive aspects of this terrible recession is the fact that I have had the time to touch base and have lunch with some interesting people that I have known and worked with over the years. Randall Whitehead was a young lighting designer who walked into my studio twenty years ago looking for great stock shots for a book he was writing on residential lighting.  We were able to supply close to half the book’s images and helped out on subsequent projects.   Alas, Randall became a renowned designer and lecturer and our lives drifted apart.

House Carmel, CA
Private residence, Carmel , CA Wm David Martin, A.I.A.

After a significant hiatus, Randall has come back into focus.  We had just photographed two wonderful houses in Carmel Valley for David Martin, A.I.A. and Randall had done the lighting.  On a sunny spring afternoon, I visited him in his Potrero Hill studio in San Francisco to share lunch and talk shop.   18th Street is one of those hidden San Francisco commercial streets that has a truly timeless urban character, with family restaurants wedged next to grocery stores and dry cleaners.  We slipped into a packed lunch place an ordered up a surprisingly tasty fare of American food.  Aside from the tattoos on the waitress’ arms, we could have been in Iowa.  Arnold Palmers and Tuna Salad sandwiches with a side of curly garlic fries filled the alimentary needs of the afternoon.

Private residence, Carmel Valley , CA. Wm David Martin, A.I.A.

Whitehead has been as hurt by the recession as much as anyone.  His speaking engagements have shrunk from 24 to one or two a year.  His consultancy work has also been struck with a dearth of jobs.  But the eternal optimist shone through over lunch.  Whitehead had important information to share for everyone in the design industry.  In a short 45 minutes he penciled out how the lighting industry is on the cusp of the greatest changes since the introduction of the fluorescent tube.  Lighting in both residential and commercial buildings will be completely different in a very short time, he said.  Manufacturers are bringing to market revolutionary lighting prototypes that are energy efficient, pleasantly color balanced, and GREEN.  A new type of fluorescent fixture, CCFL lamp, is being developed for residential use.  It has a base 2200° K color balance and is dimmable.  A dimmable LED that changes color on dimming is in the works. You can find them at: And finally, a compact fluorescent lamp is being manufactured that has no mercury and can be recycled. Here is the source for green fluorescents:

As the economy slowly revives and new buildings are commissioned, lighting both inside and out will have an entirely different look, one that is necessarily more energy efficient, greener and easier to look at.  Next to transportation, buildings are the second largest consumer of energy in the United States and lighting is a major component of that use.  Making lighting more energy efficient may save our planet, and making it more pleasant to look at may save our sensibilities.

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