On Feb. 14, 2009, architectural photographer Marvin Rand, Hon. AIA, died at his home in Marina del Ray, Calif., from heart disease. He was 84. Rand's passion for capturing architecture on film drove him throughout his five-decade career to photograph buildings that fascinated him, whether commissioned to do so or not.
According to longtime friend Lawrence Scarpa, AIA, of Pugh + Scarpa Architects in Santa Monica, Calif., Rand's original career choice was not photography, but music. "He played the clarinet and thought he'd be a musician, but then World War II came around and he was drafted," Scarpa says. "He didn't want to carry a gun, so he carried a camera instead."
After the war, Rand attended and graduated from the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. In 1952 he met architectural historian and writer Esther McCoy, who convinced him to photograph some buildings. "Marvin would say that she was the biggest influence on him," Scarpa notes. Rand and McCoy teamed up to research and photograph the work of modernist architect Irving J. Gill, the results of which were showcased in a major exhibit in 1958 at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. From then on, Rand's path was set.
He photographed the work of many prominent Southern California architects and firms in their early years, such as Frank Gehry; Cesar Pelli; Gwathmey Siegal & Associates; Gregory Ain; William Pereira & Associates; John Lautner, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; and several others. Rand contributed photography to several books, including two featuring his work exclusively—Greene & Greene (Gibbs Smith, Publisher, $50), published in 2005, and, in 2006, Irving J. Gill: Architect, 1870-1936 (Gibbs Smith, Publisher, $50). His work also was published in many magazines and newspapers and featured in architectural exhibitions.
Rand was closely involved with the Southern California modern architecture scene and was highly regarded by those with whom he worked. His aesthetic sensibility and analytical eye for detail informed every photograph, and he openly shared his opinions of a building with its architect. He was "direct," "feisty," and "fiery," according to Scarpa.
Ray Kappe, FAIA, of Pacific Palisades, Calif.-based Kappe Architects/Planners, remembers Rand's approach to architectural shoots as somewhat headstrong, opinionated, and focused on his unique perspective. "[Marvin] liked to shoot what he wanted to shoot, more than what you necessarily wanted [him] to shoot," Kappe says. But because of his enthusiasm for architecture, Rand also photographed many projects for his own satisfaction. "For many of us [architects], if he wanted to shoot something, he'd just shoot it" without negotiating for fees, Kappe says. Rand also donated his photography for student fundraisers and exhibits at the A+D Architecture and Design Museum in Los Angeles.