Boomtowns - How Photography Shaped Los Angeles and San Francisco


Anton Wagner, Looking North from City Hall Tower, 1933
Anton Wagner, Looking North from City Hall Tower, 1933
Los Angeles: 1932–33 by Anton Wagner, PC 17, California Historical Society
Boomtowns: How Photography Shaped Los Angeles and San Francisco, Selections from the California Historical Society Collection

October 12, 2018 – March 10, 2019

California Historical Society, 678 Mission Street, San Francisco

Boomtowns: How Photography Shaped Los Angeles and San Francisco, Selections from the California Historical Society Collection considers the first one hundred years of photography in what would become California’s two most prominent cities. As San Francisco and Los Angeles entered a period of rapid, unimaginable growth following the state’s entry into the Union in 1850, photography played a significant role in defining and shaping how the rest of the country understood California. Photographers also captured and responded to the distinctly different topography and development patterns of the two cities. The exhibition features works by both anonymous photographers and well-known artists—such as Carleton Watkins, Eadweard Muybridge, Minor White, Laura Adams Armer, and Arnold Genthe—and includes photographs made for a broad range of purposes, from civic boosterism and real estate development, to industry and art.

The earliest work is a rare 1851 daguerreotype panorama picturing San Francisco's shoreline that made visible all the opportunities and natural resources that the push westward promised. Among the later selections is a group of photographs taken by German geographer Anton Wagner who traversed Depression-era Los Angeles on foot as he researched his 1935 book—the first study of the sprawling metropolis—in which he marveled that the city appeared to have "no beginning nor end." From pictures of San Francisco on fire following the 1906 earthquake, to photographs taken in the 1920s of the nascent Hollywoodland housing development—which bequeathed the city its iconic sign—this exhibition draws exclusively from CHS’s extensive photographic holdings.


Art of the West Exhibition
The Autry in Griffith Park
4700 Western Heritage Way, Los Angeles
Free to California Historical Society Members

Visit the California Historical Society Gallery at the Autry National Center in Los Angeles. The CHS Gallery is part of the permanent exhibition Art of the West , which showcases the dynamic and evolving world of art that springs from the cultural practices of some of the many peoples who have shaped the American West. The CHS Gallery features selections from CHS's fine arts and costumes collections that are permanently housed at the Autry. This collaboration has assured the exhibition and conservation of significant works of art from the CHS Collection by some of America's best known nineteenth and early twentieth-century artists (including Albert Bierstadt, James Walker, and Maynard Dixon) as well as turn-of-the-nineteenth-century costumes. The Art of the West exhibition is the first of its kind to explore how shared values and interests have inspired artists from different cultures and times to create distinctive, powerful works that speak to their experience of the West as both a destination and a home.

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