Launch Slideshow

Pedro E. Guerrero's Work

Pedro E. Guerrero's Work

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    Pedro E. Guerrero, Courtesy Edward Cella Art+Architecture

    One of Guerrero's favorite photos is of Wright in the site where the Guggenheim Museum would go up in New York, "which I photographed without his knowledge," he says.

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    Pedro E. Guerrero, Courtesy Edward Cella Art+Architecture

    Diamond Gas Station, ca 1950s, location unknown

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    Pedro E. Guerrero, Courtesy Edward Cella Art+Architecture

    The Living Garage, 1958, Greenwich, Conn.

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    Pedro E. Guerrero, Courtesy Edward Cella Art+Architecture

    Yale Hockey Rink by Eero Saarinen Architect, 1958, New Haven, Conn.

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    Pedro E. Guerrero, Courtesy Edward Cella Art+Architecture

    IBM Office Building, 1961, New York State

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    Pedro E. Guerrero, Courtesy Edward Cella Art+Architecture

    United Church of Rowayton by Joseph Salerno Architect, 1962, Rowayton, Conn.

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    Pedro E. Guerrero, Courtesy Edward Cella Art+Architecture

    Bruce Graham House by Bruce Graham Architect, 1963, Rehobeth Beach, Del.

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    Pedro E. Guerrero, Courtesy Edward Cella Art+Architecture

    Luthold House by Allen Gelbin Architect, 1966, New Canaan, Conn.

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    Pedro E. Guerrero, Courtesy Edward Cella Art+Architecture

    Day House by John Black Lee Architect, 1970, New Canaan, Conn.

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    Pedro E. Guerrero, Courtesy Edward Cella Art+Architecture

    Self Portrait, Manhattan studio, 1950

How did you come to photograph Alexander Calder’s work? And how was it different from working with Wright?
When Mr. Wright died, I was rudderless. I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life. ... When he died, there was a space of a year or so where the magazines were going crazy trying to get Frank Lloyd Wright’s work. ... But by that time, I was doing a lot of interior work for House and Garden and Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar and places like that. I was assigned to go photograph Calder’s kitchen, of all things. ... I didn’t know anything about Alexander Calder. I knew his work, but I didn't know him. When I arrived at the Calder house, I was absolutely stunned at how different the whole thing was from the experiences that I had with Frank Lloyd Wright. Frank Lloyd Wright was methodical; everything was in its place. Only his furniture fit his houses. And he didn’t want pictures on the walls. When I got to Sandy Calder’s, it was absolute chaos ... But I fell instantly in love with this new experience.

I knew when I arrived at that place with the kitchen editor that House and Garden was never going to use the work because there wasn’t anything that they could sell advertisements on. He [Calder] had three stoves in this kitchen. There wasn’t one that was newer than 30 years; a couple of them weren’t even working. It was absolutely beautifully designed as far as I was concerned—trays made out of olive oil cans put on a wooden frame. If Louisa Calder needed a big spoon for soup, he went into the studio and made one out of aluminum and brought it back within an hour. ... Wright said, ‘‘Give me the luxuries and I’ll learn to live without the necessities.’’ Alexander Calder made his necessities, and they became luxuries. I couldn't stop photographing.


How did you come to photograph Alexander Calder’s work? by ARCHITECT magazine

How did this first photo shoot turn into yet another close relationship with your subject?
I found out that there were only one or two books on Calder. And they were mostly big brochures. They weren’t really books. I asked if they would give me permission to come back. That was the beginning of a relationship with Alexander Calder, which lasted as long as my relationship with Frank Lloyd Wright [had]. I went to France, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, and places where Sandy had sculptures and mobiles.

What did you learn from photographing Calder’s work?
It was disorganized chaos and it didn’t matter where I pointed my camera; there was a photograph to be taken there. The architecture was not the important thing in this case; the contents of the building were the important things—what Sandy had hung on the wall, painted, sculpted. With Wright, I was just interpreting his work. With Calder, I was documenting his atmosphere.

What are you photographing now?
I did do one job, but it was self-assigned. I had photographed Paradise Valley [in 1959] which is, if you get above Taliesin West, ... about three-quarters of the way up. I shot toward a big landmark, which is Camelback Mountain, in 1959, before Mr. Wright died. He had asked me to come and photograph it, and while I was at it, I climbed the mountain behind Taliesin and photographed Paradise Valley, which was empty; there was nothing. Taliesin was right in the foreground and nothing for miles of my photograph. And about two or three years ago, I decided I’d like to climb that mountain and photograph it again [now that the valley behind the house is fully developed]. ... So I set up a camera. As it turned out, it was 49 years to the month that I had taken the photograph before and people said to me, “Why didn’t you wait for the 50th anniversary?” And my answer to them was, “When you get to be 90, you don’t put things off for a week ... or an hour.”


What are you photographing now? by ARCHITECT magazine

What is your favorite photograph?
The portraits that I had done for Frank Lloyd Wright are absolutely stunning for me. I have one called “Tea Break at the Guggenheim,” which I photographed without his knowledge. I just came upon him having tea. [See slide show with story.] One of my absolute favorites is a photograph of Calder’s studio, one end to the other, with him in the background. And the amount of stuff that you see in this photograph is astounding. I could never get tired of looking at it.

If you were photographing today, what architect would you most like to work with?
There’s a Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava. I would like to do his work. I really kind of wonder about Frank Gehry. I just don’t understand how you can get so many tin cans and make architecture out of it, but he obviously is very successful.

What do you remember most of Wright?
To give you an idea of the joking relationship that we [Wright and I] had, when I was photographing him for his final portrait (we didn’t know it was his final portrait, but it turned out to be) I said, “Mr. Wright, I’m leaving tomorrow, and I don’t know whether there’s anything else you want me to do, and if there is, let me know.” He said, “I want you to get a helicopter and photograph, from the ai,r Taliesin West and two or three of the houses that I designed in the valley.” ... The helicopter came, and I went in to see Mr. Wright, and I said, “Mr. Wright, the helicopter’s here, now tell me what you want me to do.” And he started to tell me, and he said, “Nah, you know what to do. I don't have to go. One of us has to stay here.” And I said, “Mr. Wright, what’s the worst thing that could happen? The copter falls? We’re both killed? Imagine the headlines in the paper tomorrow: Pedro E. Guerrero and friend died in copter crash.’’ And he burst out laughing and said, “Get out of here! Get out of here!"

That was the last time I ever saw him.


What do you remember most of Wright? by ARCHITECT magazine