12 photos shot by Ansel Adams of 1940s Los Angeles

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A renowned photographer and documentarian of the West, Ansel Adams is known for his photos of Yosemite and the Japanese internment camp Manzanar, but he also supported himself through a number of commercial commissions.

One such job for Fortune magazine in the early 1940s sent him to Los Angeles to shoot photos for a piece on the area’s booming aviation industry. He left with more than 200 photos that capture what the city was like at the time. The magazine ultimately ran just a few of his images.

The photos, now in the digital collection of the Los Angeles Public Library, were first on public display in February 2012 at the Downtown LA gallery drkrm, part of that year’s annual, multi-institution Pacific Standard Time series.

The gallery’s photos were new prints made from Adams’s original negatives.

The photos were donated to the Los Angeles Public Library by Adams in the early 1960s, shortly after he rediscovered them. According to drkrm, a letter included with the donated photos indicated that Adams was less than impressed with his own work photographing the city.

“The weather was bad over a rather long period and none of the pictures were very good,” Adams wrote. “I would imagine that they represent about $100.00 minimum value… At any event, I do not want them back.”


The Court Flight Cable Railway, LA’s “little lost railway.

A lunch stand adjacent to a large parking lot, possibly near an aircraft plant.

Brown Derby, before it was demolished.

Santa Monica’s Olympic Trailer Court, which was located at 2121 Bundy Drive. The site is now home to commercial buildings and a gas station.

Three men sit on a bench above on the old Hill Street Tunnel at First Street. In the 1950s, the hill was flattened and the tunnel was demolished.

A sign advertises new model residences built by “Dandy Homes” in what appears to be Burbank or Glendale.

The Princess Apartment-Hotel, located at 529 California Street, the one-time home of oil baroness Emma Summer. It was demolished when the 101 freeway was constructed.

Pup Cafe in Venice.

South Kenmore Avenue, near Sixth Street.

Santa Monica Pier.

Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills.

Several large oil derricks drill for oil in a field in Signal Hill next to Sunnyside Cemetery in Long Beach.

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