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.
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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.
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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.
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