The University of Southern California Libraries announced Monday the acquisition of the archive of international architectural photographer Wayne Thom, known for his approach to architecture as sculpture on a massive scale.
The 250,000-image collection documents 2,805 of Thom’s projects, capturing the development of hundreds of landmark structures from initial models through final construction.
Thousands of pages of correspondence, diaries, client proposals and meeting notes accompany the photographs in the collection.
“I always view a piece of architecture as a piece of functional sculpture,” Thom said. “As an architectural photographer, my task is to capture the artistic form of the sculpture and illustrate the functional aspect of the building.
“USC and its libraries, with a unique commitment to the arts as well as a strong research enterprise, will make an excellent home for this archive that represents more than five decades of my work,” he said.
According to USC, Thom’s photographs introduced the world to many of the standout buildings that shape major Pacific Rim cityscapes — the Westin Bonaventure in downtown Los Angeles, the Transamerica Pyramid Center in San Francisco, the Overseas Chinese Bank in Singapore, and the Bangkok Oriental Hotel in Thailand.
The collection also includes photographs of several buildings on the USC campus.
Catherine Quinlan, dean of the USC Libraries, said the Thom archive “is a world-class addition to our collections from every perspective.”
“It extends our already strong holdings in the photographic history of Los Angeles and the American West,” she said. “It strengthens USC’s position as a source for understanding L.A. as a Pacific Rim metropolis. And most significantly, it makes certain that Wayne’s point of view will remain a vital part of scholarly and creative conversations among generations of researchers and artists.”
James Steele, a professor of history and theory at the USC School of Architecture, said Thom’s “work captures an especially evanescent moment in national and regional history, during the late 1960s and early 1970s, when then supreme confidence in progress and technology, and seriousness embodied in the Modern Movement, began to be tempered with the possibility of formal variation and hedonistic expression.”
“This historic collection represents an understudied period of our regional past,” he added.
The Shanghai-born Thom grew up in Hong Kong before moving to Vancouver. He studied photography at Art Center College, now Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena, then at Brooks Institute in Santa Barbara, where he graduated in 1968.
Thom has photographed the work of many prominent architects. including Frank Gehry, Quincy A. Jones, I.M. Pei and William Pereira. He is a fellow of the American Society of Photographers, an honor currently held by 108 master photographers worldwide.
Planning is underway for a 2016 opening of an exhibition based on the archive, which is scheduled to arrive at USC on Sept. 10.
—City News Service