Pedro Guerrero, 94, can be celebrated for his remarkable photographs of modern architecture, especially that of Frank Lloyd Wright, but also for overcoming considerable odds to achieve his improbable success. Raised in Mesa, Arizona, the son of a sign-painter whose parents were Mexican immigrants, Guerrero still remembers the shaming signs at public swimming pools that warned: “No Mexicans or dogs allowed.”
Pedro E Guerrero was a close friend of iconic modernist architect Frank Lloyd Wright as well his main photographer for twenty years – making his work something of an architectural treasure. Add to this his extensive career documenting architecture and the fact that the show has been put on by the Julius Shulman Institute and it quickly becomes apparent why this is not to be missed.
Pedro E. Guerrero, one of the greatest photographers of 20th century, was born in 1917, which makes him somewhere around 95 years old. Which is another excellent reason that if you’re anywhere near Los Angeles on April 5th, you make your way to LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions), 6522 Hollywood Boulevard, where at 6:30 p.m., Pedro E. Guerrero is scheduled to talk about his work at the opening of a new exhibition, Pedro E. Guerrero: Photographs of Modern Life, which runs only through April 25th
This film presents an interview with Pedro Guerrero, official photographer to Frank Lloyd Wright.
Interview by Gwen North Reiss
Produced by New Canaan High School filmmaking teacher Peter Kingsbury with student editor Casey Ouellette and student cameraman Grayson Cordes.
In 1939, twenty-two-year-old Pedro E. Guerrero, having impatiently bolted from his studies at the Art Center School in Los Angeles, was back in Mesa, Arizona, contemplating what to do next. His father, who had built a successful sign painting business, had once done a job for Frank Lloyd Wright, and remembered that the architect had a school “somewhere near Scottsdale. Maybe he needed a photographer?” The father went to the store where he had seen Wright buy paint, and got an address. A letter of inquiry was sent. “Yes,” Wright responded. “Come any time.”
Guerrero traveled to Scottsdale to find Wright in his driveway, saying goodbye to luncheon guests.
He walked along Fifth Avenue with Frank Lloyd Wright, shared cocktails with Alexander Calder
and drank tea with Louise Nevelson. Now, Princeton Architectural Press publishes the story of photographer Pedro E. Guerrero, a Mexican-American who never thought the life he describes in his memoir, Pedro E. Guerrero: A Photographer’s Journey ($55), could happen to him. “Nothing in my background offered me hope that someday I would do something significant,” Guerrero says. “But Mr. Wright saw promise in me and offered me a job. … It changed my life forever.”
Fans of American architecture will gather later this month at downtown’s Millennium Biltmore for a conference dedicated to Frank Lloyd Wright’s work in Los Angeles. The five-day event features tours, lectures and a gala dinner to celebrate one of the world’s most influential architects.
Likely overlooked in all of that, though, will be a man whose presence in Wright’s story makes him a real-life counterpart to Woody Allen’s cinematic chameleon, Leonard Zelig. His name is Pedro E. Guerrero, though friends call him Pete.
The photographer documented Wright and his work for two decades. He also chronicled the lives of art-world greats Alexander Calder and Louise Nevelson, among others. And yet he remains a shadow figure who, at 88, looks back with surprise and gratitude on a career that enabled him to forge unlikely friendships with at least three of the 20th century’s creative giants.