Esplendor de California

Marvin Rand, Photographer

Iñaki Bergera 

One could identify the visual narrative of mid-20th-century modern Californian architecture, in all its glamour, exclusively with Julius Shulman’s iconic photographs, but this fruit of the ‘discovery’ of the vast archive of the Angeleno Marvin Rand (1924-2009) is an acknowledgment of his role in the construction of the visual canon of that buoyant period.

He worked as a photographer for the US Air Force during World War II, during which he developed his characteristic technical rigor. After completing his training at the Art Center College of Design, in 1950 he launched his career as a photographer, starting out in the advertising field. Thanks to the historian Esther McCoy, his great mentor, he eventually concentrated on architecture, taking jobs having to do with documenting and preserving California’s modern heritage – most significantly around figures like Gill or the Greene brothers – and especially with collaborating with architects (Eames, Ellwood, Lautner, Gehry...) and magazines.

Rand’s reserved and tenaciuos personality is reflected in honest and impeccable images that he developed himself and were focused on the formal portrayal of architecture, not on the lifestyle behind them. In an exercise on visual clarification they reveal – through the contrasts produced by the Californian sun – the formal and spatial structure of the buildings, unveiling what characterizes them. He believed that the photographer’s job was not to be a critic, but to show a building’s content in an aesthetic way.

Reviewed books:

Marvin Rand. California Captured

Mid-Century Modern Architecture

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