Photographer Pedro E. Guerrero collaborated with three of the most iconic American artists of the 20th century: architect Frank Lloyd Wright and sculptors Alexander Calder and Louise Nevelson. His insightful portraits of modernist architecture led him to be one of the most sought-after photographers of the “Mad Men” era. Learn about Guerrero’s process and perspective in this photo gallery.
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The structures at Taliesin West were unfamiliar to Guerrero and were not forms that described a dwelling to him. He was just 22 when he shot this image. To catch the prevailing breezes, the canvas roofs and window coverings were designed to open and close by a series of ropes and pulleys.
Angular shapes likes those found in this view from the drafting room looking past the dining room and into the uninhabited valley beyond were both a challenge and an enchantment, Guerrero said.
Alfie Bush, a New Yorker, was one of the many young apprentices who toiled mightily in the Arizona sun creating the Camp, as Taliesin West was called in 1940. Here he fastens a rectangle of redwood scrap to the roof extension of the apprentices' dining room.
In the beginning Wright did not really define what Guerrero was to photograph. "Do whatever moves you," he told him. Guerrero said later he realized he was just testing him to see what kind of an eye he had. Guerrero considered it important to document the construction going on around him, including the work of these two young apprentices.
Originally scheduled to pose for a waist-up portrait, Wright appeared without shaving and told Guerrero he had to move his camera way back to conceal his stubble, which Guerrero admitted actually improved the shot.
In late November of 1940, Guerrero, an Arizona native, experienced his first real snowfall in Wisconsin. He threw on a coat over his pajamas and grabbed his camera to capture this image of the Taliesin Hill Tower draped in icicles.
At Frank Lloyd Wright's request, House and Home magazine sent Guerrero to photograph the newly completed house Wright had designed for his son David. A new statement for Wright, it was conceived as a complete circle and looked not unlike a coiled rattlesnake poised to strike. In an outtake from Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer's Journey, Guerrero speaks about photographing this house.
Wright was used to having Guerrero around so he was perfectly at ease concentrating on the task at hand while the photographer was at work. At the house he designed for Roland and Ronnie Reisley in Pleasantville, NY, Wright drew plans for a new fireplace grate as Guerrero recorded the process.
Shortly after Frank Lloyd Wright died in 1959, the architecture magazines feverishly began publishing stories on his work. In 1960, Architectural Forum magazine sent Guerrero to Bethesda, Maryland, to photograph the house Wright designed for his son Robert Llewelyn Wright.
Guerrero moved to New York City after serving in Italy as a U.S. Army photo officer during World War II. While looking for photography work, he occupied his spare time photographing street scenes. Here a pitchman sells souvenirs on 42nd Street.
Six years out of art school, Guerrero was still drawn to the camera's creative possibilities. A reflection in a store window in New York caught his eye in 1947.
Alexander Calder's largest mobiles were made from smaller maquettes at a foundry in Tours, France. This portrait, taken by Guerrero at the Tours foundry, was featured on a block of U.S. postage stamps commemorating what would have been Calder's 100th birthday in 1998.
“I think Calder had complete trust in Pedro. I think that he saw some of the photographs that he had done early on and he had great confidence in him that he would continue to make very important and really solid images that reflected on the creation of the pieces themselves.” — Joan Marter, Distinguished Professor of Art History, Rutgers University
Calder's Roxbury studio had at least four work stations, each with an anvil and vise. Dozens of work were always in progress. As Guerrero recalled, "this breathtaking sweep of clutter could have been created only by a genius."
In his interview for Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer's Journey, Guerrero said this photo of Calder's stabiles is one of his favorites.
Calder posed with a stabile named Sabot (French for Shoe) in 1976 in front of his huge studio in Sache, France. With its curled toe, Sabot (1963) served as a Calder signature on the country landscape.
“She was really quite easy to photograph. She had great big, long eyelashes that she put on. I circled her, and I looked at her from afar, and came up close. And then finally I made up my mind what I wanted to do, and I waited for her to get into the attitude that I was expecting. That was the way I had approached and learned with Wright, and practiced with Calder, and took one step farther with Louise.” — Pedro E. Guerrero
Louise Nevelson leans pensively on a black glass table in front of a black wall for this portrait in her studio. Guerrero said he could have asked her to move to a more photogenic background, but she might not have been as relaxed as she is here.
Lippincott Studios in North Haven, CT, is where artists can have their large-scale sculptures assembled.
In this gas station by a little known Georgia architect named Thomas Little, a 1959 Chevrolet Impala sits under a canopy of three concrete "mushroom" columns that recall the lily pad supports Frank Lloyd Wright created for the Johnson Wax headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin. Guerrero mirrored the flaring supports in the identically curved taillights of the Chevy parked below.
Parishioners dressed in their 1960s Sunday best file inside this unusual church designed by architect Joseph Salerno in 1962. The design won the American Institute of Architects' highest award in 1963.
Guerrero, shooting toward the soaring ceiling, captured the beautiful light-filled curves of this church designed by architect Joseph Salerno in 1962. The design won the American Institute of Architects' highest award in 1963.