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Shulman, Parker And Architectural Photography

The recent death of renowned architectural photographer Julius Shulman has prompted us to take a look back at that particular genre of photography. In a rather timely coincidence, The Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif., recently announced the online opening of The Maynard L. Parker Collection — an exhaustive catalog of the photographer's work. Much like Shulman, Parker's most successful photographs were of California homes.

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Born in Vermont in 1901, Maynard Parker was a Los Angeles-based photographer, specializing in architecture, gardens and design. Throughout the mid-century, his images were found in many of the country's most popular magazines, such as House Beautiful, Better Homes & Gardens and Architectural Digest. Not only did he photograph the homes of celebrities like Alfred Hitchcock and Judy Garland, but he also chronicled the work of the country's best architecture and design pioneers, such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul Laszlo and Thomas Church.

Maynard Parker sets up his camera on a forklift, Courtesy The Huntington Library hide caption

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Courtesy The Huntington Library

As a library statement reads, Parker's work "captured a postwar era of suburban middle class homes that celebrated an indoor outdoor lifestyle and burgeoning consumer culture. ... He captured California's outdoor lifestyle in sun washed images of the patios, lush lawns, and backyard swimming pools."

Jennifer Watts, curator of photography at The Huntington, put together an introductory presentation of Parker's work called California and the Postwar Suburban Home, which is well worth a read:

Between 1950 and 1970, the nation's suburban population doubled (from 36 million to 74 million residents), with 83 percent of the nation's growth in the suburbs. California's abundant land, cheap labor, and mild climate put it in the vanguard of the new housing movement. ... Home and garden magazines ... capitalized on housing trends and provided a blueprint for modern living.

A sleek and minimalist poolside bungalow; an office with the same stark and sleek appeal as an episode of Mad Men; a "top of the line" kitchen that to us seems so quaintly vintage: together these images create a vivid view of a distinct time and place. But the work of photographers like Parker and Shulman often goes unrecognized. Every day we flip through magazines and rarely do we stop to wonder who took the photographs. Especially in hindsight, though, we can recognize the value of photographic collections like Parker's. He and his contemporaries not only documented what at the time was modern, but they also preserved an era of design in American memory.

The Maynard L. Parker collection consists of approximately 58,000 negatives, transparencies and photographs, of which nearly 6,000 have been digitized to view online. Learn more about Parker and the collection on The Huntington Library's Web site.

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