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Jack Laxer

1927–2018

American architectural  photographer, and modern stereo photographer with a special 3-D perspective

Jack Laxer (born 1927) was an American photographer best known for his work in stereoscopy. His photographs of California modern architecture have been published in magazines and books, displayed in museums, and included in educational programs since the 1950s. He photographed the homes of Lucille Ball and Harold Lloyd with the Stereo Realist camera. His clients included the architects Paul Revere Williams, William F. Cody, Arthur Froehlich, Ladd & Kelsey, and Armet & Davis,  best known for their Googie coffee shops.

 

Beginning in 1951 he documented the designs of Louis Armet and Eldon Davis including Norms, Pann's, and the Holiday Bowl. These images were included in Alan Hess's book Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop  Architecture,   setting off a revival of interest in the style beginning in the 1980s.

The Los Angeles Conservancy Modern Committee exhibited Laxer's photography in 1993 in an exhibition about the work of Armet & Davis at the Union Oil Center. 

 

In 2001 the group projected his actual 3-D slides on the IMAX screen to a full house of 480 people at the California Science Center. They utilized a 1950's Stereo Realist Model 82 projector, using twin 1000 Watt projection lamps, with David Starkman and Susan Pinsky acting as projectionists.

 

In 2009 DKRM Gallery in Los Angeles exhibited his work in the solo show Ultra-Angeles: Kodachrome in 3-D.

 

Laxer taught a course at the Getty Museum in 2010 called Modernism in 3-D: The Art of Stereo Photography.

 

The Chinese American Museum exhibited his 3D work in specially built viewers as part of their 2012 exhibit Breaking Ground: Chinese American Architects in Los Angeles.

 

The Getty Museum included Laxer's work (the only stereo photos) in the exhibit and publication Overdrive: L.A. Constructs The Future, which ran as part of the museum's Pacific Standard Time series before relocating to the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. in October 2013.

 

The Los Angeles Conservancy presented Laxer with the Modern Master award in 2009.

LOS ANGELES TIMES
 Nov 22, 2001
by Kathy Bryan
 
"All Three Sides of the Story". 
It's a sign of how fast things change that 1950's Los Angeles seems almost as far away as 1750's Boston. Luckily there were artists here who caught those soon-to-be-gone moments. One of them is photographer Jack Laxer, 74, who documented '50s Googie coffee shops in all their futuristic, glossy glory on stereographic three-dimensional color film. His images, many never seen before, will be part of a narrated slide show on Nov. 29 at the California Science Center titled "3-D LA: Modernism in Three Dimensions, the Stereo Photography of Jack Laxer 1953-1965."

"I came out to L.A. from New York in 1950 with the thought that I would photograph the architecture out here," said Laxer, who has lived in Pacific Palisades for 34 years. Today he specializes in photomicrography-- shooting photos in rooms of architectural models that look as if they were full-scale. He also does travel photography. "I couldn't get a job, because there were already some great photographers, like Julius Shulman, in place. After being turned down over and over, I met with architect Paul Williams, and he shared a caveat with me that changed my life and my outlook on life. He said to find something distinctive, not good, because a lot of people did good work."

On a trip to Arizona, he discovered stereo pictures. "I thought to myself that architects created their works in three dimensions, but then they're reduced to planar views in photography. Here was something to give back that dimension to their work," says Laxer, a courtly man with a precise way of speaking. Laxer bought a commercial stereo camera called a Realist and six hand-held roto-viewers that had the ability to show 60 slides each. His 3-D architectural photos fit the times perfectly, and architects immediately saw the value in it and hired him to shoot their buildings.

One of his first clients, architect Arthur Froelich, had him photograph his designs, including racetracks like Hollywood Park. After that, Laxer was off and running.

And so was Googie architecture. Named after a now-demolished coffee shop called Googie's that was designed in 1949 by architect John Lautner, the term has come to encompass a commercial style filled with space-age motifs and optimism for a brave new world of intergalactic travel.

Googie architecture catered to the 1950s car culture, so each new tail-finned, chromed car model could be driven almost to the door of the floor-to-ceiling glassed-in coffee shops and bowling alleys. Laxer's photos show pulsating lights, sharp angled rooms, cantilevered roofs, stone surfaces, futuristic designs and multicolored Naugahyde upholstery.

Architects Armet & Davis were big in the field, and Laxer was a natural to photograph their Googie buildings. With the aid of polarized glasses or a Roto-viewer, clients could see Armet and Davis' creations, like Norm's, Ship's, Tiny Naylor's and Clark's restaurants, from all their different angles.

"The Googie style fell out of favor around 1970," says Chris Nichols, a former chairman of the Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee, which is co-sponsoring this event. "Today the only place left pretty much intact is Pann's in Inglewood, which was built in 1958. You can still see the geometric accents. Most other places have been renovated or demolished. And 3-D faded too. It was seen as too faddy, and it was a complicated process, requiring as it did either polarized glasses or viewers. The wonderful thing about Jack's photographs is that he had the foresight to freeze them, so they are in perfect condition. He perfectly documented this world."

Which is a good reason to don your supplied polarized glasses and see Laxer's 3-D images projected on the theater's silver screen (itself an endangered species). Here again are the coffee shops, bowling alleys, office buildings and even the 1956 Motorama, featuring the kitchen of tomorrow.

*

Narrated slide show, 7:30 p.m. Nov. 29, 2001 at the California Science Center IMAX theater, 700 State Drive in Exposition Park, Los Angeles. Sold out.

194 Car Show 1956 Motorama GM Pan Pacifi
1956 Los Angeles General Motors Motorama Car Show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium by Jack Laxer
42 Panns interior by Jack Laxer.jpg
Panns coffee shop exterior, Inglewood, Los Angeles, CA landmark since 1958,
still open in 2020, www.pann.com  by Jack Laxer
70 Roosevelt Raceway West Bury.jpg
 Roosevelt Raceway West Bury
198 Car Show 1956 Motorama GM Pan Pacifi
1956 Car Show Motorama GM Pan Pacific 20 by Jack Laxer x
1956_Car_Show_Firebird II_by_Jack_Laxer.
1956 Car Show Firebird II by Jack Laxer
195 Car Show 1956 Motorama GM Pan Pacifi
1956 Los Angeles General Motors Motorama Car Show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium by Jack Laxer
117 Penquin interior counter seating by
 Penquin interior counter seating by Jack Laxer
13 Lookingfromoutsideintoacoffeeshop cle
Coffee shop interior counter and table seating by Jack Laxer
36 Wich stand Jack Laxer - rt.jpg
 Wich stand coffee shop by Jack Laxer
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2010 Jack Laxer at dinner before LA Stereo Club Nov meeting cropped fisheye by David Starkman
88%20Bowling%20building%20interior%202%2
 Bowling building interior 2 by Jack Laxer
22%20original%20version%20of%20Aquaduct%
Original version of Aquaduct by Jack Laxer
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1956 Motorama General Motors Pan Pacific 5 by Jack Laxer
186 Car Show 1956 Motorama GM Pan Pacifi
1956 Motorama General Motors Pan Pacific building in Los Angeles 8 by Jack Laxer 
Coffee Shop interior by Jack Laxer.jpg
Coffee Shop interior by Jack Laxer
25 Aquaduct cafeteria by Jack Laxer.jpg
 Aquaduct cafeteria by Jack Laxer
44 Norms Long Beach by Jack Laxer.jpg
Norms Long Beach, CA by Jack Laxer
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Three fools up in construction by Jack Laxer
12 Hanna Barbara studio with Joe Hanna &
Hanna Barbara studio with Joe Hanna & his wife by Jack Laxer
193 Car Show 1956 Motorama GM Pan Pacifi
 1956 Motorama General Motors Pan Pacific 15  by Jack Laxer 
2009 Jack Laxer and Alan Leib at premier
2009 Jack Laxer and Alan Leib at premier of Ultra_Angeles 3-D show Aug 14 by David Starkman
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2009 Jan and Jack Laxer at premier of Ultra_Angeles 3-D show Aug 14 by David Starkman
Ray Zone Jack Laxer & David Starkman at
2009 Ray Zone, Jack Laxer & David Starkman at the Aug 14 Laxer 3D exhibit by Susan Pinsky
"Ultra-Angeles: Kodachrome in 3-D,
The Stereo Photography of Jack Laxer"
Aug 14, 2009
by Alex Cohen --  KPCC

Aug 15 – Sept 6, 2009

drkrm.gallery is pleased to announce the exhibition of Ultra-Angeles: Kodachrome in 3-D, The Stereo Photography of Jack Laxer. An opening reception honoring the photographer will be held on Saturday, August 15, from 7-10 pm. The exhibit will be on view through September 6, 2009.

Ultra-Angeles features rarely seen images of Southern California's commercial landscape from 1952-1969 -- a dreamworld of Googie coffee shops, tail-finned cars, and sleek office towers-- in stunning stereo 3-D and vivid full color Kodachrome.

Many notable architects including Paul Williams, William Cody, and the masters of the Modern California Coffee Shop, Armet & Davis, hired 3-D photographer Jack Laxer to document their newly completed works. Using a specially adapted Stereo Realist camera, Laxer's lens revealed a vivid depth filled world, with a precision and artistry unseen before or since in the realm of stereo photography.

Like Julius Shulman, Laxer's primary subject matter was the ultramodern architecture of midcentury America. However, unlike Shulman's famous black and white 2-D images of private residential oases, Laxer's work documented the ultramodern Main Streets of Los Angeles in a pristine palette of Kodachrome colors with a hyper-exaggerated stereo depth.

Laxer's progressive subject matter perfectly embodies the spirit of modernism, both as an artistic movement as well as an everyday reality in postwar Los Angeles. His amazing views offer a full-color, 3-D glimpse into a world that no longer exists, even as we drive by it every day.

Guest curator Alan Leib is the Chairman of the Los Angeles Conservancy's Modern Committee, and one of LA's leading cultural activists. Mr. Leib has led successful battles to preserve many of LA's most important modern buildings, and created, co-produced and hosted the Conservancy's Built by Becket and and 3D-LA events, the latter being an IMAX theater presentation of Mr. Laxer's Ultra-Angeles era work.

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2009 Chris Nichols, Jan and Jack Laxer at premier of Ultra_Angeles 3-D show Aug 14
by David Starkman
64 Coffee Shop interior with white stool
 Coffee Shop interior with white stools by Jack Laxer
73 Huddle interior with stairs by Jack L
Huddle interior with stairs by Jack Laxer
1950s Car Show golden car by Jack Laxer.
1956 Los Angeles General Motors Motorama Car Show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium by Jack Laxer
196 Car Show 1956 Motorama GM Pan Pacifi
1956 Los Angeles General Motors Motorama Car Show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium by Jack Laxer
8 DisneyMusicHallbuilding cleaned&goosed
Disney Music Hall building Los Angeles CA by Jack Laxer
32 Hubble coffee shop Palm Springs by Ja
 Hubble coffee shop Palm Springs by Jack Laxer
111 Las Vegas Convention center exterior
 Las Vegas Convention center exterior by Jack Laxer
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2009 Susan Pinsky, Jack Laxer and Ray Zone at the Aug 14 Laxer 3D exhibit by David Starkman
Midcentury modern photographer
Jack Laxer
dead at 91
June 13, 2018
by Avishay Artsy

Photographer Jack Laxer, who famously captured LA's Midcentury Modern architecture through a stereo camera lens, has died.

Jack Laxer died in Culver City at the age of 91. He spent more than six decades depicting architecture in Los Angeles and other colorful locations around the world.

He was born in Brooklyn and moved to LA in 1950. He documented celebrity homes, race tracks and space-age Googie coffee shops using a stereo camera. He photographed Harold Lloyd's Christmas tree, and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz's house.

"What we love about Jack's photography is its ability to bring you into the scene. Not only is it color, and rich beautiful Kodachrome, but it's in stereo. You have to put this gadget up to your head to crawl into these pictures and you just fall into this beautiful lost world," said LA historian Chris Nichols, a former chairman of the LA Conservancy Modern Committee and an editor at Los Angeles magazine.

Architects including Paul Revere Williams, William F. Cody, and Armét & Davis hired him to take 3D photos of their buildings.

His stereo camera made him stand out from other architectural photographers of the time, like Julius Shulman, Leland Lee and Marvin Rand.

"Jack went to Paul R. Williams, the architect, and tried to get work, and Williams said, 'we've already got Julius Shulman, why should we hire you? Your work is great, but it has to be distinctive,'" Nichols said. "And Jack heard that and discovered the Stereo Realist camera, and really made that the tool of his art and his expression."

Laxer later turned to international travel photography and teaching. He lectured at the Getty Museum Center, California Science Center, and around the world.

The LA Conservancy presented him with their "Modern Master" award in 2009.

While many of the buildings he shot have been demolished, they live on in his photographs.

Laxer is survived by his wife of 63 years, and two daughters.

© 2018 KCRW All Rights Reserved

18 Palm springs coffee shot now gone cle
Palm springs coffee shop - now gone
2014 Jack Laxer giving photo tip talk SC
2014 Jack Laxer giving photo tip talk to LA Stereo Club group Nov by Susan Pinsky
27 Dales - Secret Harbor by Jack Laxer.j
Secret Harbor coffee shop by Jack Laxer
David Kuntz & Jack Laxer at SCSC August
2008 David Kuntz and Jack Laxer at LA Stereo Club August Awards Banquet at
Taix's French restaurant by David Starkman
179 Car Show 1956 Motorama GM Pan Pacifi
Jack & Jan Laxer at Stereo Club of So Ca
2010 Jack Laxer accepting money for great item he's brought to sell at Stereo Club of So Calif Nov at Pasadena Armory by David Starkman
Jan & Jack Laxer Jan 2010.jpg
2010 Jan holding Molly the cat and Jack Laxer January at Susan and David's house
by David Starkman
2008 Jack and Jan Laxer at the LA Stereo Club August Awards Banquet at Taix by Susan Pinsky
DSP809Laxer077.jpg
2009 Jack and Jan Laxer with family members Aug 14 at Laxer 3-D exhibit by Susan Pinsky
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 Romeo's coffee shop - always open exterior by Jack Laxer
28 Penguin interior by Jack Laxer.jpg
Penguin interior by Jack Laxer
2010 Jack Laxer accepting money for grea
A dear friend remembered
by David Starkman
 

My wife, Susan Pinsky, and I, first met Jack in 2001. At that time Chris Nichols asked if it would be possible for us to project about 100 of Jack's stereoscopic slides of mid-century Googie architectural treasures for the Los Angeles Conservancy at the IMAX theater in the California Science center.

Of course, we said yes, and that not only introduced us to Jack's wonderful stereoscopic images, but also to Jack himself.

Over the next couple of years Jack joined our local 3-D photography club, and became a beloved regular attendee. It was his habit to almost always bring a box of assorted candies for all of the club members to enjoy during our 3-D slide projection break. He would also usually bring some piece of camera equipment that he found very useful, to share with us in a show-and-tell presentation. He loved to impart his own knowledge very generously.

The Stereo Club met on a weekday, and it was a very long drive from Pacific Palisades to Pasadena during rush hour. So, for many years he would drive to our house in Culver City, and get driven the rest of way with me and Susan.

After a while, we learned that we had a little more in common than our love of

3-D photography. My father was an architect, and I was surprised to learn that he was one of Jack's earliest architectural clients, and that Jack had learned a few important tips about working with architects from my dad that he greatly appreciated. If I remember correctly, it was a tip regarding perspective of the architect, and the importance of that aspect of viewing. To all of us who knew Jack, we know that he was never shy about showing great appreciation to everyone he met.

After moving into Palm Court, in Culver City, Susan and I would pick him up and drive him to the club meetings each month, and that gave us at least an hour and a half of time to chat going there, and about 30 minutes returning.

Architecture, current developments in 3-D photography, and old swing music were the main topics of conversation each month. Because the drive on the freeway was often so slow, just for a change of pace, we started driving the entire way on city streets. Jack never stopped being fascinated with the wide variety of architecture and neighborhoods that we passed through on these drives, and we enjoyed his commentary as we drove. It was like seeing all of these neighborhoods and buildings with a fresh eye, and for the first time.

In 2010 Jack was asked to present a show at the Getty Museum entitled "Photography in 3-D: Capturing the Built Environment". To project this show on a larger screen we had to convince Jack that it would be larger, brighter and better with digital projection than with the original slides projected with 1950's equipment. Several months of working with Jack ensued, with Susan doing all of the scanning, and color adjustments, to produce a final result that met Jack's exacting standards. A bonus for us was the opportunity to see all of the original slides in their original format, and to see many beautiful slides that were not part of the show.
 
Susan and I could go on about the many pleasures of knowing Jack, and the times that we had together. We will never forget them, and we will miss him very much. We feel very lucky to have known him, and to have the legacy of his warmth, his friendship, and the images that he has left behind.
 
June 13, 2018

1956 Los Angeles General Motors Motorama Car Show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium by Jack Laxer
72 Huddle interior bar with white stools
 Huddle coffee shop interior bar with white stools by Jack Laxer
Oscar Meyer with Weinermobile and group
Oscar Meyer (Jerry Maren) with Weinermobile and group of kids by Jack Laxer
Oscar Meyer and the Weinermobile with ki
Oscar Meyer (Jerry Maren) and the Weinermobile with kids running towards it by Jack Laxer
2008 Stereo Club of So Calif board meeting at Susan and David's home in March, 
Jeff Amaral, club President, at end of table, by Susan Pinsky
2008 SCSC Board meeting at Susan and Dav
2009 Chris Nichols David & Jack Laxer at
2009 Chris Nichols, David Starkman and Jack Laxer on far right at downtown LA City Hall with others December Modcom party by Susan Pinsky
2009 Jack Laxer niece and her son at Jac
2009 Jack Laxers niece and her son at Jack's gallery opening Aug by Susan Pinsky
143 Ferris wheel by Jack Laxer.jpg
 Ferris wheel by Jack Laxer
19 William F. Cody Palm Springs by Jack
William F. Cody architecture designed Palm Springs home by Jack Laxer
2007_Jack_Laxer_Wilshire_Church_SCSC_Apr
2007 Los Angeles Stereo Club April meeting with Jack Laxer giving mini-workshop, and Ray Zone
by Susan Pinsky
2009 Jan Laxer Ellen Laxer Chris and Sus
2009 Jan Laxer. Ellen Laxer Chris and Susan Pinsky at Jack Laxer's gallery opening August 
by David Starkman
2009 Jack Laxer exhibit downtown LA Aug
2009 Jack Laxer exhibit downtown LA August by David Starkman
2009 People with REAL depth in their liv
2009 People with REAL depth in their lives at the Jack Laxer 3-D gallery opening August 
by David Starkman
2009 Jack Laxer & Ray Zone Aug at Jack's
2009 Jack Laxer and Ray Zone August at Jack's gallery opening 1 by David Starkman
190 Car Show 1956 Motorama GM Pan Pacifi
1956 Los Angeles General Motors Motorama Car Show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium by Jack Laxer
187 Car Show 1956 Motorama GM Pan Pacifi
1956 Los Angeles General Motors Motorama Car Show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium by Jack Laxer
11 Dennys orange chairs more red & more
3-D LA Modernism poster.JPG
 Denny's coffee shop orange bar stools by Jack Laxer 
41 Panns exterior by Jack Laxer.jpg
Panns coffee shop exterior, Inglewood, Los Angeles, CA landmark since 1958,
still open in 2020, www.pann.com  by Jack Laxer
182 Car Show 1956 Motorama GM Pan Pacifi
1956 LA Car Show Motorama GM Pan Pacific getting set up 4 by Jack Laxer 
197 Car Show 1956 Motorama GM Pan Pacifi
1956 LA Car Show Motorama GM Pan Pacific 19 by Jack Laxer 
Jack Laxer professional photographer-Col
Jack Laxer professional photographer in
69%20Hollywood%20Bowling%20lanes%20exter
 Hollywood Bowling lanes exterior 2 by Jack Laxer
Jan and Jack Laxer together.jpg
1954 Jack and Jan Laxer just married in Beverly Hills
Jan and Jack playing around
1954 Jack and Jan Laxer at wedding-Color
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