The Los Angeles that existed in the 1950s is a far cry from La La Land as it exists today. Back at the turn of the century, the city was covered in homey, neon-lit diners, Beatnik-worthy roadside motels, and gas stations that appeared to have been birthed from the nostalgic lyrics of a Lana del Rey song. Luckily, a man named Jack Laxer made it his mission to document this LA of lore, and while the famed photographer himself has passed away at the age of 91, his work lives on.
The style of architecture that Laxer predominately focused on fell under the umbrella of “Googie”. This funny-sounding term encompasses the aesthetic of the time, described on the Smithsonian’s website as
“a style built on exaggeration; on dramatic angles; on plastic and steel and neon and wide-eyed technological optimism. It draws inspiration from Space Age ideals and rocketship dreams.”
Although Laxer also produced striking photos of many other subjects, such as celebrity homes, backyard parties, and even chemical molecules, his documentation of the Googie style proved particularly noteworthy.
Laxer employed a technique called stereoscopy to give the images a sense of 3D depth, as well as employing a color Kodachrome camera. Together, they perfectly complemented the retro-futuristic aura of his chosen subjects. Among other accolades, Laxer was a long-time member of the Stereo Club of California, and was one of the last remaining avid users of analog.
In 2009, the renowned photographer was presented with the Modern Master award, granted to him, appropriately, by the Los Angeles Conservancy.
Below are a few of the locations, published in LA Mag, that Laxer chose to photograph, many of which are now long gone: