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Leonard Nadel photographs and other material relating to housing and urban redevelopment in Los Angeles, 1947-1998 (bulk 1947-1957)

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Nadel (Leonard) Photographs and other material relating to housing and urban redevelopment in Los Angeles

Biographical/Historical Note

The American photojournalist, Leonard Nadel, was born in Harlem, New York in 1916 to Austrian-Hungarian parents and grew up in the Bronx tenements. His parents worked in the garment district. After graduating from City College of New York, Nadel trained at the Army Signal Corps Photographic Center (SPCP) in Astoria, New York, and then served as a lab technician and combat photographer during World War II in Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippine Islands. After leaving the army, he returned to New York and earned a master's degree in education from Teachers College, Columbia University. He taught briefly before moving to Los Angeles to study photography at the Art Center College of Design. During this time he began photographing public housing sites.

In 1947 and 1948, Nadel photographed the Pueblo del Rio housing development in South Central Los Angeles, which was originally built between 1941 and 1942 for Black defense industry workers. Nadel showed his material to Frank Wilkinson, the assistant diretor of the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles (HACLA), who suggested that he also document Aliso Village, another of the agency's housing projects. Nadel assembled two books from his documentation of Pueblo del Rio and Aliso Village, but they were never published.

In 1949, Wilkinson hired Nadel as a photographer for HACLA to make a photographic record of living conditions both in Los Angeles's slums and in the new housing projects that were built in Los Angeles during and immediately after World War II. Several of these projects were championed by or carried out under the auspices of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA). Nadel was employed by HACLA until 1953, when Frank Wilkinson was blacklisted by the Committee on Un-American Activities and forced to resign from the agency. Consequently, Nadel to leave HACLA in protest.

From 1953 through the 1980s, Nadel worked as a freelance photographer, producing documentary work for various agencies and magazines such as National Geographic, Look, Forbes, Life, and Paris Match. For over two decades he was the primary west coast photographer for Business Week. Of particular note is his 1956 documentation of the Bracero program for the Ford Foundation's Fund for the Republic.

Nadel married Brazilian-born Evelyn De Wolfe, a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, in 1961. Over the next eighteen years they collaborated on numerous freelance projects for domestic and international publications, ranging from documenting the life of a Japanese geisha to living with a tribal group in New Guinea. Nadel also continued to document the city of Los Angeles, particularly focusing on street mural art during the 1960s and 1970s.

Leonard Nadel died in 1990.

Sources consulted:

_____ "Pueblo del Rio."

_____ "Pueblo del Rio Housing Project, Los Angeles, CA." Paul Revere Williams, American Architect: A Man and His Works.

Jones, Stephen. "The Bunker Hill Story: Welfare, Redevelopment, and Housing Crisis in Postwar Los Angeles." CUNY Academic Works (2017).

McCarthy, Maggie. "Introduction to Public Housing." Congressional Research Service 7-5700 (2014). R41654

Marks, Mara A. "Shifting Ground: The Rise and Fall of the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency." Southern California Quarterly 86, no. 3 (2004) doi:10.2307/41172224.

Normark, Don. Chávez Ravine, 1949: A Los Angeles Story. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1999. Peleg, Oren. "Photos: The Life, Death, and Rebirth of Bunker Hill, " LAist, Apr 26, 2017.

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