Los Angeles in the 1940s was a city marked by rapid population growth and urban transformation. Under the leadership of the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, public officials, philanthropists, community leaders, architects, and photographers alike worked together in an effort to clear the so-called “slum” neighborhoods of the city and build modern, planned housing communities for low-income veterans, workers, and their families. This research project focuses on the work of the photographers, who from viewpoints ranging from that of the surveyor to the social activist produced an extensive body of black and white photographs which brought Los Angeles’ postwar building efforts into a global public consciousness.

Lay summary
Theme and Aim of the Research
Taking the Los Angeles photographs as a point of departure, this project investigates the role of photography in seeking to solve postwar housing shortages in the local context, nationally, and abroad. Photographs of the Los Angeles effort suggest that the photographic medium was crucial for the international exchange of experience and ideas in solving housing shortage problems. In following the trajectories and recontextualizations of the Los Angeles photographs, this project likewise aims to locate a shared set of conventions or strategies for photographing and utilizing photographs of postwar low-income housing as developed through this exchange between the United States and Europe. Despite a growing interest in the history of applied photography, the vast majority of the photographic practices affiliated with the Los Angeles public housing efforts remains yet to be the subject of a thorough scientific investigation. These practices include those of professional photographers, working women, and war veterans trained in photography in both the U.S. military and traditional design schools.

Academic and Social Context
The body of photographs produced in conjunction with the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles’s clearing and building efforts were created within a very real network with very articulate, albeit also sometimes idealistic, goals. My project’s importance lies in looking beyond the realm of art photography and the canon of documentary projects to bring this large body of local work into the international perspective of a global network of architects and photographers and the citizens they sought to serve.