Holiday Shopping Guide 2014: Books Devoted to Architectural Photographers

by Lynne Rostochil

This time of year, there is nothing more fun to do on frosty evenings than to light a fire and curl up on the sofa with a good book … and when I say a good book, I don’t mean the latest best seller.  I mean an architecture or design book.  How delightful it is to lounge with a pup in my lap and lust over expertly composed photos highlighting the imaginative design of mid-century homes, offices, schools, hospitals, and shops.  Over the years, I’ve amassed quite a collection of vintage and newer architecture and design books, enough to keep me perusing nearly every night of the week for months, so I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you in case you are buying for a special MCM lover out there or are in the market for a gift for yourself this holiday season.

In no particular order, here are some faves, along with links where you can purchase them.  Today, we’ll start with some books by and about Modernism’s most famous photographers:

1.  Modernism Rediscovered by Julius Shulman

This mammoth three-volume set is, hands down, my all-time favorite, and I probably pull them out to look at more than any other book I own because Shulman’s images are so darned beautiful.  Of course, it helps that he included many of his iconic Oklahoma images in this series, including photos of the Founders Bank, St. Luke’s, the Cowboy Hall of Fame, the Bavinger House, and Herb Greene’s Prairie Chicken House:

prairie chicken house herb greene julius shulman photo


2.  Modernism Rediscovered by Julius Shulman

No, I didn’t just type the same book twice.  Before the three-volume set came out in 2007, Shulman and co-author Pierluigi Serraino released a much smaller and more affordable volume of the photographer’s work in 2001.  I have a big soft spot for this book because Shulman included two buildings that my grandfather’s firm, Conner & Pojezny, designed:  the Central State Hospital Nurses’ Dorms…

Central State Hospital Nurses Quarters

… and the Fine Arts building at UCO:

UCO Fine Arts Building

Many other Oklahoma buildings are featured, as well as some of Shulman’s iconic images of California Modernism, etc.

3.  Maynard L. Parker: Modern Photography and the American Dream by Jennifer A. Watts

Perhaps not as elegant a photographer as Shulman or Ezra Stoller (who we’ll get to in a minute), Maynard L. Parker was certainly as prolific and captured the idealized (and sanitized) mid-century version of the American Dream perhaps better than the rest with such images as this great shot of the family car living with and among a typical American family:

maynard l. parker


While none of Parker’s Oklahoma images made it into the book, he visited the Sooner state several times and photographed quite a few homes here over the years, such as the Neely House we profiled awhile back:

Neely 1


Neely 2

Neely 4


4.  Ezra Stoller, Photographer by Nina Rappaport

Only Ezra Stoller was as well known as Julius Shulman during Modernism’s heyday, and this book highlighting his best work shows why.  I’m so in love with his photos of Saarinen’s TWA terminal, and there are plenty of them to ogle over in this beautiful book:

ezra stoller

But that’s not all.  This book is jam packed with all kinds of photographic goodies to appreciate:


ezra stoller 2


5. Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer’s Journey with Frank Lloyd Wright, Alexander Calder, and Louise Nevelson by Pedro E. Guerrero

Guerrero was a fledgling 22-year-old photographer when he lucked into the position of working for Wright in 1939, but he quickly gained experience by heeding the master’s advice to “photograph anything and everything.”  That’s exactly what he did for the next 20 years until Wright’s death in 1959.  Guerrero then went on to work for Calder and Nevelson until he retired in the 1980s.

pedro guerrero

pedro guerrero2


6. Balthazar Korab: Architect of Photography  by John Comazzi

Hungarian-born and Detroit-based Balthazar Korab may be best known for his photos of much of Eero Saarinen’s work, including his TWA terminal at JFK, the GM Center in Detroit, and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.  As a former architecture student himself, Korab’s photography gracefully captures the very essence of the buildings themselves while also showing them in their best light.  I didn’t know a lot about Korab’s photography (other than his assignments for Saarinen) before I got this book but gained a much wider appreciation for the man and his incredible body of work after reading it.

balthazar korab

balthazar korab2


7.  Julius Shulman Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis by Sam Lubell

Shulman spent all but 10 years of his life calling Los Angeles home, so it’s no surprise that he took a ton of photos of the great city he loved so much, as well as its constant transformation.  There’s a lot of heart in this book because this area was so personal to Shulman, and there are some pretty stunning images in this book besides his iconic photos of so many Case Study houses.  Look at these beauties, for example:

Julius Shulman

shulman bunker hill


8.  Julius Shulman: Palm Springs by Michael Stern

Yeah, I know, we’re getting a bit fixated on Shulman books, but there are so many of them and they are all SO good.  This one is no exception and, in fact, has an exuberance that is almost palpable.  There was so much great design going on in Palm Springs in the ’50s and ’60s and Shulman, the lucky guy that he was, was there to capture it all.

shulman - kaufman house

shulman edris


9. New Churches of Europe by G. E. Kidder Smith (published in 1963)

new churches of europe

G.E. Kidder Smith was an architectural photographer and writer from Alabama who spent much of his career publishing books about modern architecture throughout the world:

new churches 2

He also worked to save and preserve such buildings as Wright’s Robie House in Chicago.  Kidder Smith’s beautiful photos dominate his books, which also include:

  • Brazil Builds
  • Sweden Builds
  • Switzerland Builds
  • Italy Builds
  • Source Book of American Architecture
  • The New Architecture of Europe


10. Lucien Herve: Building Images by Olivier Beer

Herve was Le Corbusier’s official photographer for over 15 years until the architect’s death in 1965.  The way he incorporates people in his images, along with the deft way he plays with light and shadow, gives Herve’s architectural photos a lightness and playfulness that other photographers simply can’t match.  Another book of his work that I highly recommend is Le Corbusier and Lucien Herve: A Diaglogue Between Architect and Photographer by Jacques Sbriglio.



Next week, we’ll offer up some book selections devoted to graphic and industrial designers.