California Captured by Phaidon

California modernist style is often dominated by names such as William Pereira, A Quincy Jones, Craig Ellwood and Frank Lloyd Wright. Few would know the story of the man who captured America’s architectural history for over five decades.

Los Angeles born photographer Marvin Rand is the man behind the lens capturing the mid-century California style and in turn, setting the standards for America’s architectural photography. Through its latest publication, California Captured, Phaidon is hoping to shine a light on the Rand’s compelling career printing archives of his work.

Marvin Rand Photographer 06
Craig Ellwood, Hunt House, Malibu, 1955 | Courtesy of the Estate of Marvin Rand

While Rand never achieved the level of fame of his peers, he was made an honorary member of the American Institute of Architects and continued to practice photography until his death in 2009. “Although he operated in the shadow of his more famous rival, the noted architectural photographer Julius Shulman, Rand was an artist with the camera, admired for his grasp of the interplay among form, line and light in the structures he caught on film,” stated his obituary in the LA Times.

Writers of California Captured Emily Bills and Pierluigi Serranio explained given Rand studied both photography and design, he had a unique perspective with his singular lens. “He really respected it. He loved architecture, but he also loved L.A..” Rand’s sharp design eye and talent for highlighting a graphic composition created definitive portraits of Californian landmarks and lesser-known modernist buildings. His photography let the architecture “speak for itself,” says Lubell.

Marvin Rand Photographer 05
William L. Pereira & Associates, University of California, Irvine, 1966 | Courtesy of the Estate of Marvin Rand

As California’s Modernist aesthetic moved away from an austere look to more natural, simplest design to fit in line with the West Coast lifestyle, Rand’s career came into its own. He championed easy living and celebrated the architecture’s clean lines within the desert and beachside backdrops. These single-storey and open-plan spaces flooded with natural light became Rand’s ideal subject with an interest in the structure themselves, not the lifestyle surrounding it.

Lubell explains his photography archive depicts a bigger picture of how Los Angeles’ architectural history shaped the architecture landscape across the globe. “There were only so many people taking pictures of architecture in L.A. as it was really coming into its own, Rand catalogued a lot of that.”

California Captured showcases Rand’s insider perspective of modernist architecture at that time and the legacy he left behind.

See more about Phaidon’s California Captured here.