California Captured: Marvin Rand’s Legacy

Southern California was the epicenter of mid-century glamor as industrial and cultural growth flourished. Architects flocked to the area and created some of the most iconic mid-century homes and buildings. After opening his studio in 1950, Marvin Rand and his camera captured the city’s ever changing façade and the striking architectural work that came to epitomize the era. Rand passed away in 2009, and a new book published this spring titled ‘California Captured,’ documents and presents Rand’s work as significant in its own right, while also creating a layered look at the growth of architecture during the mid-century period.

“It’s the incredibly graphic sensibility and the way Rand approaches buildings almost as exercises in abstraction that really stand out,” says Emily Bills, co-author of ‘California Captured.’ “It was never about photographing a lifestyle image of L.A. His interest was really the structures and how they fit into the city.”

Los Angeles drive-in by architect Douglas Honnold, Marvin Rand 1949
Pereira Residence by William L. Pereira & Associates, Marvin Rand 1964
California Captured: Mid-Century Modern Architecture, Published by Phaidon
Capitol Records Building by Welton Becket & Associates, Marvin Rand 1956

Born in 1924, Rand was a hard worker, never ceasing in his search of subjects. Throughout his career, he worked with established architectural greats such as Esther McCoy, Charles and Ray Eames, Louis Kahn, Welton Becket, Craig Ellwood, Cesar Pelli, John Lautner, Ray Kappe, Frank Gehry, and Thom Mayne. Beyond the big names, he continued to work with new architects just beginning their careers. Into his 70s, he photographed and even processed his own film, never had assistants, and only accepted aid from his son. In his mid-70s he even bought a computer and taught himself digital photography. His relentless focus and vision are clear in his beautiful, haunting images that show each building as art. Rand made it a habit of walking through a space with the architect before he began working, taking the time to understand the thought and intention so he could accurately capture each in his photographs.

“His photography transcends the mere documentation of the built environment,” said Michael Hricak. “In a single thoughtful image, he is able to explain the intentions behind the work.”

Marvin Rand in his studio, Architectural Digest
Louis Kahn Salk Institute, Marvin Rand 1963
Stone Stuart Pharmaceutical Company by Edward Durell, Marvin Rand 1958
Dektor Film Group by Gwynne Pugh and Lawrence Scarpa, Marvin Rand 1991

Rand’s archive includes nearly 20,000 images, a fraction of which are included in ‘California Captured.’ His work is a passionate portrayal of architecture, while also evocatively playing with light, shadow, and form.

“For more than half a century, [Rand] used that camera to fight on behalf of our profession.” –Lawrence Scarpa, architect and friend

Case Study House #18 by Craig Ellwood, Marvin Rand 1958
Cambridge Investment Inc. Building by Killingsworth, Brady & Smith, Marvin Rand 1960
The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion by Welton Becket & Associates, Marvin Rand 1967
LAX Theme Building by Pereira & Luckman, Marvin Rand 1961
Posted by Cecilia Chard at 04:10:33 AM
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