Photographer Marvin Rand

An overlooked master

mid century modern architecture marvin rand california photograhy
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Above: The Palevsky House, 1971. Photo: Marvin Rand

Copy Stephen Wallis via AD Magazine

Postwar Los Angeles was a boomtown, industrially and culturally—an ideal playground for architects. The result was some of America’s great mid century homes and commercial buildings, devised by talents such as John Lautner, Richard Neutra, and Rudolph Schindler. There to record these masterworks—for promotion and posterity—were a handful of photographers, the most famous among being no doubt Julius Shulman. But Marvin Rand was as an equally significant chronicler of the scene.

mid century modern architecture marvin rand california photograhy

Located in Los Angeles and designed by Frank Gehry the Steeves Residence, 1963. Photo: Courtesy of the Estate of Marvin Rand

 

The photography of Marvin Rand

An L.A. native, Rand (1924–2009) launched his studio in 1950, focusing on advertising and product pictures before shifting—partly on the advice of design historian Esther McCoy—to architectural photography. One of his early clients was charismatic designer Craig Ellwood. Rand shot nearly all of Ellwood’s most celebrated projects, including two Case Study houses, brilliantly capturing their interplay of recti­linear volumes as well as their integration with nature. For Ellwood’s 1955 Hunt House, overlooking the Malibu surf, Rand photographed the highway-facing exterior as a minimalist silhouette: two cubic garages flanking an opaque glass wall, all framed by open sea and sky. The result is striking and definitive depictions of American Modernism.

mid century modern architecture marvin rand california photograhy

Located in Malibu, California the Hunt house designed by Craig Ellwood, 1955. Photo: Courtesy of the Estate of Marvin Rand

 

The photography of Marvin Rand

Rand photographed many high-profile projects across Southern California, from the Salk Institute to the LAX Theme Building but also many lesser known works by Lutah Maria Riggs and Douglas Honnold. The latter is represented by Rand’s nighttime shot of the drive-in Tiny Naylor’s, an evocative essay in light and shadow with cars parked beneath a soaring canopy. While today a lesser known chronicler of the ere Rand is very much a vital part of “the grand mosaic” that is the story of California modernism.

mid century modern architecture marvin rand california photograhy

Designed by Pereira & Luckman the Los Angeles International Airport ‘Theme Building’, 1961. Photo: Courtesy of the Estate of Marvin Rand

 

mid century modern architecture marvin rand california photograhy

Marvin Rand (1924 – 2009) Photo: Courtesy of the Estate of Marvin Rand

 

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