Will Connell, American (1898 - 1961)

Will Connell
Connell began his professional career in the late 1920's in California. Publications employing Connell include: Allyear Club, Touring Topics (later Westways), Better Homes & Gardens, Colliers, Weekly Cosmopolitan, Country Gentlemen, Life, Successful Farming, Sunset, Time, U.S. Camera, Woman's Day, Woman's Home Companion, and Vogue. He belonged to a circle which Kevin Starr proclaimed as the "urban bohemian intelligentsia."

Figures associated with the group include Hollywood writers and industry people, artists, actors, architects, and others involved in creative activities. Many of the ideas and images put forth during this period came out of this group. Along with Connell, Starr also cites, book store owner, Jake Zeitlan, writer, Carey McWilliams, and architects, Lloyd Wright and Kem Weber; all of whom were photographed by Connell.

He captured the 1920's in California as a time of growth and prosperity. He also photographed the "Southern California" lifestyle in the late 1920's through the 1930's. In addition to Connell's commercial ventures, he completed a number of projects of his own. The first of these published works, The Missions of California (1941), dealt with the historic past of Mexican California. Connell photographed all twenty one missions and their asistencias between 1936 and 1937. The work came at a time of new popularity in the recently restored missions.

The second independent work About Photography (1949), is an artistic endeavor which highlights a variety of experiences within the borders of the United States through photography. Connell states in the Introduction: The book will probably do nobody any good, because those who need it won't understand it, and those who understand it won't need it...It expresses my feelings that people are more important than formulas. And it attempts to show that photographs are both copy and text. The collection of photographs chosen for the book represent varying existences in North America.

Beginning in the early 1930's, Connell worked extensively for the prospering Motion Picture Industry. He photographed Hollywood in what is referred to as the "golden age of motion picture." He began to work as a press photographer for various studios including Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Republic Studios. The studios commissioned Connell to create glamorous images of Hollywood and the movie industry. Films and photographs of the era focused on glamour and comedy to offer the public an escape from the bleak Depression Era.

In 1937 this experience prompted Connell to produce a series of photographs which he eventually published as a book entitled In-Pictures: A Hollywood Satire. In this work he looked at the movie industry through a satirical eye. He criticized the exploitation and disappointment involved in the movie industry. The montaged images, with titles such as "Go West Young Man" and "Sex Appeal," explore the dismal side of the movie industry. Unfulfilled dreams and broken promises become visible to the oblivious spectator. Connell photographed all aspects of the industry including young starlets and established actors. Behind-the scenes images portraying the creators involved in the various aspects of the entertainment industry can be seen on the pages of miscellaneous magazines of the era. Professionals from all aspects of movie production can be found in the archive.

Another aspect of Connell's professional career includes work commissioned by the business community. Photographs of commercial and retail industry make up the majority of the archive. Commercial advertisements became the mainstay of his entire career. He photographed pre- and post war production including developing industries such as aerospace, oil, construction, and steel.

Connell also devoted a significant portion of his life to education and the pursuit of photography as a field of study. He founded the photography program at the Art Center in Los Angeles and taught there from 1931 up until the time of his death in 1961.

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