Mid-Century architecture, especially in California, is synonymous with elegance and glamour. The mythology surrounding these buildings, the style they exude, even today, was in no small way shaped by a select number of photographers. California Captured is a new book, published by Phaidon, that epitomises this classic architecture through the lens of one such photographer, Marvin Rand, whose images have helped define the era’s iconic aesthetic.
In a time of significant urban growth and industrial expansion, a community of designers, architects and photographers burgeoned, spurring a period of monumental architectural innovation and cementing LA’s reputation as one of the world capitals of Mid Century Modernism. A central player in this community, but not one for self-promotion, Rand is undoubtedly an unsung hero of his time. He created iconic images of some of the most celebrated works of Mid-Century Modern architecture including buildings by Modernist masters Rudolph Schindler, Craig Ellwood, Louis Kahn, A. Quincy Jones and Frank Lloyd Wright. In doing so Rand played a critical role in shaping the Mid-Century California style now worshipped all over the world.
In 2012, Sam Lubell, the West Coast editor of the Architect’s Newspaper, discovered Rand’s complete archive in an unassuming building in Santa Monica. Organised by Rand before his death and still in the family’s possession, it consists of more than 50,000 negatives and transparencies. The discovery of Rand’s archive has brought an absolute treasure trove to life, and California Captured showcases it – and the period – as never before.
Rand’s contribution to promoting Mid-Century architecture is distinctive: architecture was left alone to speak for itself without add-ons and artificial lighting. He sought to capture the essence of a building and its site, eschewing a personal style that he believed would "destroy the emotion of the subject matter". His approach – pared-back aesthetic, grounded in strong graphic composition – was the same whether he was capturing a private home or one of Los Angeles’s many new office towers, schools, airports, and shopping centres.
California Captured chronicles the broad range of architecture Rand shot throughout southern California. The stunning title’s carefully curated sequence of images shows the true power and beauty of Rand’s work. It articulates the centrality of the post-war generation of architects in California, defining both their aura and their mythology.
Through Rand’s photography, California Captured provides a seductive read of a city built on modern tales and fantasy through the architecture that defined a new style of contemporary living. Elegantly designed and thoughtfully compiled, this stunning title will delight and inspire architects, architourists and Mid Century Modern enthusiasts alike. Grab yourself a copy at Phaidon.com.