When Pedro Guerrero showed up at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Arizona school Taliesin West in 1939 armed with a portfolio of student photographs that largely depicted nude women at the beach, the famed architect hired the inexperienced 22-year-old immediately. For the next 20 years, Guerrero got an up-close look at Wright’s life and work, photographing life at Taliesin, his houses, and the master himself.
Guerrero’s book, Picturing Wright, offers an intimate look at the architect that few were afforded. As Martin Filler writes in the book’s forward, “so vivid was Wright’s presentation of himself, so dominant was his celebrity tower the end of his long, eventful life, that the true character of the man tended to be somewhat obscured by his carefully staged persona.” Guerrero, who died in 2012 at the age of 95, managed to catch Wright unguarded–inspecting drawings, holding court with his apprentices, relaxing at a picnic, reading with his wife.
In most portraits, candid or posed, Wright is a sharp elder statesman, wandering job sites and directing builders with deft waves of his cane. In his private moments, drinking a cup of tea while staring at his favorite architecture or playing the piano, Wright is wholly focused, a mysterious artist absorbed in the work at hand. Guerrero’s work is a testament to the power of the photographer-subject relationship: after decades working with the architect, Guerrero was able to capture Wright in his element, even when fame made him nearly oblivious to cameras.