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, 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 Ken Weber. Connell 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
existence's 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 studious 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.
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. This archive offers
a glimpse of California history as seen by Will Connell.