This is the author's second bite of life in Southern California, his earlier book 'Southern California in the 50s' (ISBN 1883318491) was an exuberant looking collection of photos and graphics mixed in with the text. I thought it was rather let down by the less than rigorous image selection. 'Southern Californialand' is a much better offering which I think captures the feel of this fascinating part of the Nation.
For a start 'Southern Californialand' only uses photos and none of them are angled like the earlier book. The design is much more formal too, the photos are large, frequently one to a page or one to a spread, the very detailed captions and headings are not set in period typography either.
The 170 were mostly taken by amateurs but don't let that put you off, there are some great shots in these pages and Phoenix has wisely chosen a wide selection of places, for instance the Eastland Shopping Center, West Covina 1957, the Compton Drive-in 1977, Angel's Flight funicular railway 1956, kids enjoying an Easter party in Palm Springs 1953, Vine Street, Hollywood 1948, tract homes in Highland Park 1958, oil derricks at Signal Hill 1953 and the huge globe at Leisure World 1962.
As well as plenty of places and events there are many showing folks having fun in the fifties (why would an amateur take a photo of someone looking glum?) and some of these are sometimes the most interesting, a super photo on page sixty-eight shows four people having a meal, nothing clever about this at all photographically but it has a wealth of information about fashion, interior decor, furniture, utensils and the food on the table. Pages twenty and twenty-one show a husband taken a photo of his wife sitting on a bench at an intersection, again a real amateur shot (I wonder why this photo of someone taking a photo was taken?) but it is full of detail, commercial strip architecture, their clothing, ads on the seat, and the street furniture. So many of these photos have this kind of detail that you can pore over.
Because these are amateur photos there are a few duds but overall I thought this was a lovely book of photo nostalgia and examples of the pop architecture that commercialism in Southern California did so well. If you lived here in mid-century this is the book to get.