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Santa Monica aerial by Spence Air Photos

Santa Monica aerial by Spence Air Photos

April 2, 1937: Aerial photo of Santa Monica Pier shoreline looking northwest. The Casa del Mar Club is the first building located in the lower right corner.

Since this photo was not published in the Los Angeles Times back in 1937, I focused my research on the byline – Spence Air Photos. Besides, I’ve come across several aerial images by Spence Air Photos in the Los Angeles Times Archive and was just curious.

Spence Air Photos was the one-man company of photographer Robert Earl Spence. He began shooting aerials in 1918. In the 1920s he had numerous clients – including the Los Angeles Times – hiring him to shoot homes and businesses. Spence would shoot images at an angle, not straight down, showing many additional building details.

In 1971, Spence retired and donated his collection of 110,000 negatives to the University of California Geography Department. He passed away in 1974.

For more on Spence check out Oldies and Oddities: He Shot California by Vickey Kalambakal from the Nov. 2010 online edition of Air & Space magazine.

At UCLA, the Spence Collection is part of The Benjamin and Gladys Thomas Air Photo Archives.


  1. August 6, 2013, 10:17 am

    Interesting how the offshore breakwater has only moderately affected the littoral drift of ocean sand as it moves southward.

    The Santa Barbara breakwater (1930), conversely, is connected to the shore and blocks littoral drift. It created over 20 acres of new “terra firma” that became (in 1937) La PLaya Field (now the track/football stadium for SBCC. The SB harbor also requires annual dredging to clear it of littoral sand.

    By: Bruno Marr
  2. August 6, 2013, 7:07 pm

    Amazing photograph! Thanks so much for sharing.

    By: Freddie

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