Wet and Wild

The Chlorinated Water and Scantily Clad Bodies of Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography 1945-1982

BILL ANDERSON, El Mirador, early 1950s

HERB RITTS, Richard Gere—Poolside, 1982

MICHAEL CHILDERS, David Hockney at Rising Glen, Hollywood, 1978

BILL OWENS, He’s a typical Californian who doesn’t know how to relax, 1971

MEL ROBERTS, Robert and Cliff, Sherman Oaks, 1980

LORETTA AYEROFF, Abandoned Pool, California Ruins, Perris Valley, 1974

DAVID HOCKNEY, Nathan Swimming Los Angeles March 11th 1982


No dream of Southern California is complete without a swimming pool. What started as a totem of status and privacy became, in the postwar years, an affordable luxury for middle-class families who wanted a taste of the celebrity lifestyle. Even the empty pool came to take on meaning: a project just begun, or a home abandoned.

The pool is also a shape-shifter: a reflection of whatever the viewer wishes to see. The iconic images in Backyard Oasis: The Swimming Pool in Southern California Photography 1945-1982 show us what some of the great photographers and artists of postwar America discovered in these watery indulgences.

Buy the Book: Skylight Books, Powell’s, Amazon.

*Photo credits (in order of slideshow): Collection Palm Springs Art Museum, gift of Dorothy Anderson © Palm Springs Art Museum; Courtesy of the Herb Ritts Foundation, Los Angeles © Herb Ritts Foundation; Collection Palm Springs Art Museum, gift of the artist © Michael Childers; Courtesy of PDNB Gallery, Dallas, TX © Bill Owens; Estate of Mel Roberts © Michael H. Epstein & Scott E. Schwimer; Courtesy of Loretta Ayeroff © 1974 Loretta Ayeroff; Collection of David Hockney © David Hockney; photo credit Richard Schmidt.


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