Architecture photographer Wayne Thom lived at the Bonaventure hotel for a week in 1977 as preparation for taking one of his most iconic images. To shoot the sculptural elegance of John Portman’s building, Thom woke at 4 a.m., positioned himself on the offramp of the 110 Freeway and readied to catch the sunrise. In the resulting photograph, the hotel’s cylindrical forms rise Oz-like from downtown Los Angeles, the curved facades reflecting the colors of dawn.
“I light the building with sun behind it, which illuminates the clouds,” Thom said when asked how to capture the dazzle of mirror glass. Retired and living with his wife, Aesook Jee, in the San Gabriel Valley community of Rowland Heights, 87-year-old Thom still approaches his craft with well-honed technique and poetry in equal measure. “You are photographing the reflection, not the building. The building is just a frame for the reflection of the sky.”