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.
Swimming pool at the Judge Anderson residence, designed by architect Aaron Green, protege of Frank Lloyd Wright, Palos Verdes Estates, Calif., circa 1963
The Robert Blacker residence in Pasadena, Calif., was designed by influential American architects Greene & Greene.
Charles Kuhn and Ernest Meyer residence, Aptos, Calif., 1949. Thomas Dolliver Church, California landscape architect
Exterior of Judy Garland's residence, January 1940
Cecil J. Birtcher residence, Los Angeles, 1945. Harwell Hamilton Harris, modernist architect; Kem Weber, German furniture designer.
The lobby of the Earl Carroll Theatre as it appeared in August 1939 during its first year of operation. Located on Los Angeles' Hollywood Boulevard, the landmark is now a studio for the Nickelodeon television network.
Living room, Bing Crosby's residence, undated
Mr. and Mrs. Jack Moss residence, Los Angeles, 1945. Jack Moss, interior designer.
Dishwasher and kitchen, Los Angeles, 1946
Mr. and Mrs. Mario Larrinaga residence, outdoor living space, circa 1945
Mr. and Mrs. James W. Clyne residence, utility room, Malibu, Calif., circa 1946
Model house, parking facility and exterior, Vista, Calif., undated
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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
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."
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.