Don Draper Meets Alvar Aalto, In Retro-Chic Photos [Slideshow]

Ben Sandler shoots a stunning Alvar Aalto house, in a style that seems ripped from Mad Men.

We don’t know about you, but we’ve been suffering from the boob-tube equivalent of delirium tremens ever since Mad Men went off the air. Thank god for Ben Sandler. The Israeli-born, Paris-based photographer has taken a monument of mid-century modernism — Alvar Aalto’s stunning Maison Carré outside Paris — and turned it into the backdrop for an ultra-stylized photo shoot that could’ve come straight from the mind of Matthew Weiner. Bonjooooour, French Don Draper!


Okay, okay, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. They’re only stills, after all. But in Tomorrowland, Sandler has done a fantastic job evoking the sexy, tortured, melancholic ennui of upwardly mobile beautiful people on the eve of the Swinging Sixties — and with an eye for the details that gave Mad Men its gobstopping cult status. Scroll on through to slide eight and tell us this: Could that wisp of smoke get any more fraught?

Look closely and you start to notice that things are off.

Sandler tells us Mad Men was indeed a reference here. “I really appreciate the design and decoration and style in that series,” he says. “It’s spot on.” And in using Aalto’s house — which was commissioned by an art dealer in 1956 and has since been preserved beautifully and converted into a museum — Sandler is clearly channeling his inner Weiner. Sandler and his crew rented the house for a couple days. The lighting and furniture are Aalto originals.

The photos aren’t meant to be a straight rip-off of the show that may or may not grace our living rooms one day soon, and if you look closely, you start to notice: Things are off. You’ve got unidentifiable plastic objects on the ground and what looks like an alien TV on the vanity and, maybe we’re hallucinating, but is the car above a kind of dad Delorean, and is it hovering in mid-air?

It sure as hell is. Sandler worked with a CGI artist to dot the scenes with weird little technologies — flying cars, video phones, robot maids — that never were. “I’ve always been a big fan of movies about the future,” he says. “So I decided to look at the technology of the 1960s, at the things they thought would be everyday objects but inevitably didn’t come about.” In short, he says, “Tomorrowland is a glimpse into a world that can never exist.” So it’s like Mad Men and Brazil rolled into one. Somebody get this guy a film treatment.

Sandler’s photographs are for sale. Contact him here for details.

[Images courtesy of Ben Sandler]

About the author

Suzanne LaBarre is the editor of Co.Design. Previously, she was the online content director of Popular Science and has written for the New York Times, the New York Observer, Newsday, I.D.