Postwar Suburbia from the Air

On Places, D.J. Waldie assesses iconic aerial photographs of Lakewood, California, one of the nation's first postwar planned communities.

"In early 1950, William A. Garnett began flying over six square miles of former lima bean fields 23 miles southeast of downtown Los Angeles," writes Waldie, who is the author of the classic memoir Holy Land, about growing up in Lakewood. When the 17,500-house tract development was completed in 1954, it changed the map of Southern California forever.

Waldie explores the complex relationship between the aerial view and the postwar suburban boom, a relationship at once materialistic and transcendent. "Although the photographs were factually out-of-date as soon as the prints were dry," he says, "the anxieties they evoked became perfectly timeless."

The essay for Places includes a gallery of 20 photographs, by Garnett and others.

Full Story: Beautiful and Terrible: Aeriality and the Image of Suburbia

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