Californian Modernism through Marvin Rand’s lens

California Captured, the new book by Phaidon, reveals a hidden story of the 20th century architectural photography, putting light on forgotten master of photography Marvin Rand.

Craig Ellwood, Palevsky House, Palm Springs, 1971. Picture credit: courtesy of the Estate of Marvin Rand (page 141)

There was a lot of to capture during the heyday of postwar modernism in California. Since the late 1930s, Los Angeles became a fascinating catalysator in the architecture development. Pioneering architects as Rudolph SchindlerFrank Lloyd Wright and Richard Neutra prepared a good position for younger generation of modernists, realizing their dreams after the war in the emblematic Case Study House program or in their individual commissions. Pierre Koenig, Craig Elwood, John Lautner and many others created a strong architectural legacy which became famous also thanks to wide media coverege and global presentation. 

In this new postwar architecture boom, the photography played a crucial role in the presentation of new built projects and their character. One of the most creative and active photographers at the time was Julius Shulman, who was partly rediscovered for wider public by architecture researcher and writer Pierluigi Serraino in his eponymous series of books Modernism Rediscovered. Serraino, based in Berkeley, is focused mainly on the topic of architecture photography. New book California Captured allowed him to continue his research in this field within Californian modernism. 

The cover of California Captured. Mid-Century Modern Architecture, Marvin Rand, Phaidon, 2018
The cover of California Captured. Mid-Century Modern Architecture, Marvin Rand, Phaidon, 2018

“Marvin Rand was a native Angeleno. In a city where most people have come from somewhere else in search of something better, Rand’s photographs-many lost to time since the mid-century-reveal the perspective of an insider,” authors introduce Rand’s legacy. Emily Bills, Sam Lubell and Pierluigi Serraino focused on his forgotten architectural photography career. Working since the 1950s for the Californian modernist elite, Rand’s re-discovered photos, open a hidden episode of Mid-Century American architecture. The book contains basically two main sections, including comprehensive text on Marvin Rand’s work and the gallery selection of his best photographs. 

His photographs are mainly black and white and show different perspective on architecture than his fellow master Julius Shulman. The buildings are as frozen in time, set in beautiful and harmonic compositions of urban landscape and natural surroundings. Rand, opened his studio in 1950 after working in commercial and advertising industry, collaborated extensively mainly with Craig Elwood, Welton Becket and William Pereira, whose buildings create the core of the book. 

Marvin Rand. Photo Kwaku Alston, 2004 (page 6)
Marvin Rand. Photo Kwaku Alston, 2004 (page 6)

While Elwood’s smooth and minimal residential designs are captured by Rand in dramatic geometric sensibility, Welton Becket’s project, including Capitol Records Tower in Hollywood, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Mark Taper Forum at the Music Center complex illustrate dramatically changing urban landscape of Los Angeles. The book also contains work of lesser known architects such as Lutah Maria Riggs, A. C. Martin and Douglas Honnold or pictures of iconic works including Salk Institute by Louis Kahn, early works of Frank Gehry and LAX Theme building by William Pereira whose own house is featured on the cover of the book.   

Book title:
Marvin Rand. California Captured
Emily Bills, Sam Lubell, Pierluigi Serraino
€ 59.95

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