Photodocumentary: the electrification of Los Angeles

Form and Landscape is a stupendous collection of photos documenting the electrification of Los Angeles, culled from ConEd's archives (Edison International underwrote the exhibition). The pictures are presented with fascinating articles in Spanish and English, and are curated by William Deverell and Greg Hise.

The documentary record tells a story of better living, improvement, and uplift all made possible through the power of electricity or “white gold,” the company’s term of art for its product. Boosters spoke fervently about the opportunity a regular supply of electricity created and the benefit it would provide a mass of people for whom ready access to white gold meant extended hours of productive labor, enhanced quality of their leisure hours, and greater safety while traveling in and about the company’s service area by foot, by mass transit, or by automobile. It is a story of private enterprise elevating individual and collective wellbeing and in doing so contributing toward the public good by taking the smoke out of manufacturing; by making the labor of workers, both wage-earners and domestic, more efficient; by increasing safety and deterring crime; by improving health.

About the Project — FORM and LANDSCAPE (via The Guardian Art and Design)

(Image, above: "Commercial Lighting Doug White (No date)")

I've included some of my favorites below:

Commercial Lighting Doug White (No date)

A Family at Home Joseph Fadler 1966

Electrical workers fashion show Joseph Fadler 1970

Kern River No. 3 Powerhouse, Edison generators attest to the quest for power, Kern County G. Haven Bishop 1928

Carl's Whistle Stop Char Broiled Hamburgers Joseph Fadler 1967


  1. My favorite example of an LA animated sign was the old Helms Bakery sign (which I could watch from my bedroom window as a kid).  It would gradually spell out “Helms….OLYMPIC….Bread”, then an animated skyrocket would arch over and explode over the circular seal.  Impressive! Here’s the un-animated current version (btw, a new version of the Helms Bakery is scheduled to open in Fall 2013!):

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