How Serendipity Helped Make 22-Year-Old Pedro E Guerrero FLW’s Favorite Photographer

Robert Llewellyn Wright House. Image © 2014 Archives

What does it take for a 22-year-old art school drop-out to start a lifelong professional relationship with “the greatest American architect of all time”? Originally published by Curbed as “How a 22-Year-Old Became Wright’s Trusted Photographer,” this article reveals that for Pedro E. Guerrero, it took some guts and a lot of luck – but once they were working together this unlikely pairing was a perfect match.

When Frank Lloyd Wright hired Pedro E. Guerrero to photograph Taliesin West in 1939, neither knew it would lead to one of the most important relationships in architectural history. Wright was 72 and had already been on the cover of Time for Fallingwater. Guerrero was a 22-year-old art school drop-out. Their first meeting was prompted by Guerrero’s father, a sign painter who vaguely knew Wright from the neighborhood and hoped the architect would offer his son a job. Any job.

Young Guerrero had the chutzpah to introduce himself to the famous architect as a “photographer.” In truth, he hadn’t earned a nickel. “I had the world’s worst portfolio, including a shot of a dead pelican,” Guerrero said later. “But I also had nudes taken on the beach in Malibu. This seemed to capture Wright’s interest.”

Video: The late Pedro E. Guerrero speaking at the Julius Shulman Institute

Last April, we announced the opening of Pedro E. Guerrero: Photographs of Modern Life – a retrospective exhibition organized by the Julius Shulman Institute (JSI) at Woodbury University that honored the incredible life and career of the great 20th century architectural photographer, Pedro E. Guerrero (1917-2012). JSI was thankful to have Guerrero join the exhibition’s opening night, where he entertained the crowd with his charismatic personality as he shared fascinating stories from his life.

Sadly, the world is still in mourning over Guerrero’s passing last week, as he died at the age of 95 on Thursday, September 13, 2012, at his home in Florence, .

Woodbury University and the Julius Shulman Institute would like to share a few words from JSI director Emily Bills:

“The Julius Shulman Institute is deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Pedro E. Guerrero. We were honored to host a retrospective of his work last April, which included the lively, and often hilarious, conversation he shared with Hunter Drohojowska-Philp. Guerrero will be remembered as one of the great architectural photographers of the twentieth century, capturing the essence of work by , Edward Durell Stone, Marcel Breuer, Joseph P. Salerno, and many others. He will be dearly missed.”

Read Guerrero’s obituary in the New York Times and the LA Times to learn more about his epic life and career. Continue after the break to view some of his best photographs that were featured at the exhibition. 

Pedro E. Guerrero: Photographs of Modern Life

United Church of Rowayton, Joseph Salerno Architect, 1962, Rowayton, CT © Pedro E. Guerrero, Courtesy Edward Cella Art+Architecture

Pedro E. Guerrero: Photographs of Modern Life at Woodbury University Hollywood Gallery (WUHO) is on view through April 25. The show is the first extensive exhibition on the West Coast of Guerrero’s career as an architectural photographer. Curated by Anthony Fontenot and Emily Bills, JSI director, Pedro E. Guerrero: Photographs of Modern Life will highlight the diversity of Guerrero’s subjects taken over seven decades. During that time, he captured the architecture of Marcel Breuer, Philip Johnson, Edward Durell Stone and Eero Saarinen. His wide ranging work included portraits of architects as well as commercial work for House & Garden, Vogue, the New York Times Magazine and Architectural Record. He is perhaps best known for his close relationship with . The exhibition will feature Guerrero’s illuminating portraits of Wright, including twelve photographs of the architect’s hands demonstrating the difference between organic and conventional architecture at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Continue reading for more.