Obituary: Pedro E. Guerrero / He took pictures of Wright's artistry

Sept. 5, 1917 - Sept. 14, 2012

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Pedro E. Guerrero, a former art school dropout who showed up in the dusty Arizona driveway of Frank Lloyd Wright in 1939, boldly declared himself a photographer and then spent the next half-century working closely with him, capturing his modernist architecture on film, died Thursday at his home in Florence, Ariz. He was 95.

His daughter, Susan Haley Smith Guerrero, confirmed his death.

Pedro Guerrero was in his early 20s when his father, a sign painter, nudged him to quit lazing around his family's house in Mesa, Ariz., and take a chance at introducing himself to Wright, who had recently moved to the area.

"He said, 'Why don't you go see that fellow Wright up on the hill?' " Mr. Guerrero recalled in an interview with The New York Times in April. "When I first showed up there, Wright wanted to know who I was. I said, 'My name is Pedro Guerrero, and I am a photographer.' I had never introduced myself that way before. He said, 'Come in and show me what you can do.' "

Mr. Guerrero, who had studied photography before dropping out of the Art Center School in Los Angeles (now called Art Center College of Design), shared his relatively thin portfolio -- Wright took note of its several female nudes -- and they quickly established a rapport.

"Seeing Mr. Wright's work in the desert, I decided I would approach it like sculpture," Mr. Guerrero added. "That pleased him very much."

For the next 20 years, until his death in 1959, Wright placed his trust in Mr. Guerrero as his exclusive photographer. In turn, Mr. Guerrero fell in love with Wright's work and traveled frequently to photograph his buildings. (He said the living room of Taliesin, the celebrated Wright house in Wisconsin, was the most beautiful room he had ever seen.) He also took a famous series of pictures of Wright demonstrating architectural principles with his hands.

Their association prompted other artists to call, among them sculptors Alexander Calder and Louise Nevelson, and Mr. Guerrero's career flourished. By the early 1950s he was living in New Canaan, Conn., to be close to New York. At the time, many modernist architects were moving to the area and building what would become landmark structures, like Philip Johnson's Glass House in that town. Guerrero photographed Johnson's work as well as that of Marcel Breuer while also doing freelance work for Harper's Bazaar, House and Garden, Architectural Forum and other magazines. Yet when Wright called, everything else had to wait.

"In our family, we always called him, 'Mr. Wright,'" said Susan Guerrero, who is an editor at The Times. "My father could have worked for others, but until Wright died he kept that to a minimum."

Pedro Guerrero began working with Calder after Wright died, and the differences between the two were immediately apparent. Wright had insisted on orderliness, while Calder thrived in jumbled work spaces.

"That world of sameness ended abruptly when I drove up to Calder's house," Mr. Guerrero wrote in "Calder at Home," one of several books he published. "I was about to discover complete happiness in heart-stopping clutter."



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