Lords of the Lens - Page 2

8 great architectural photographers—mid-century California was their domain


A rural New Englander who came to Los Angeles in his 20s, Parker lived with his family in the city's Echo Park in a Cape Cod-style saltbox house. So it's not surprising that a sense of comfort, even nostalgia, infuses much of his work.

Parker's own home appeared on the cover of House Beautiful at the start of the 1940s, as he began his long association with the magazine, whose editor, Elizabeth Gordon, promoted a warmer shade of modernism than what she regarded as the stark and cold International Style.

Parker (1900-1976) produced photos for the publication that often showed apparently real people reading newspapers, socializing, or simply sprawling in multi-textured, well-appointed, often cozy modern interiors.

"A classic Parker photograph shows people looking through windows outside with children in bare feet playing with their toys," Jennifer A. Watts told a reporter in 2012. Watts is a curator at the Huntington Library, which holds the Parker archive—58,000 images.

Lords of the Lens
One of photographer Maynard Parker's most notable photo shoots was the one for architects Anshen and Allen's 1949 Silverstone House (above) in Taxco, Mexico.

"He enjoyed making a room look better than it was," Parker's daughter, Ann Carawan, told the Echo Park Historical Society. "By the time he had lighted [a room] for a photo, rearranged the [furnishings], and tweaked everything a little bit, the house looked like a million dollars. It just seemed to please some artistic part of him."

Parker used floodlights for dramatic effect on interiors, playing up the rhythmic slats of a curved staircase in a Berkeley home by Harwell Harris, or illuminating the exposed rafters of a modern living room while causing the center of the room to glow. For exteriors, long, raking shadows often added drama.

Parker did much photography for two architects who blended traditional design with modernism, Cliff May and Paul R. Williams. He also shot the work of Neutra, Frank Lloyd Wright, and many others.

Parker, who used camera angles and wide-angle lenses to make small rooms look big, did some photography for Joe Eichler, and may have been introduced to him by Joe's architects Anshen and Allen.

Parker's photos of Anshen and Allen's 1949 Silverstone House in Mexico, with deep shadows beneath low-slung furniture, a fire in the hearth, and sun pouring in from skylights, brought out the home's textures and delights.

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