Douglas M. Simmonds (1914 - 1996)

Photographer Douglas Martin Simmonds was born on May 17, 1914. For many years he, along with his wife and collaborator Hilda, ran a small agency ‘Douglas M. Simmonds, Photographer of Architect & Interior Design’ from 11339 Waterford Street in Los Angeles.

According to Hilda, “Douglas wanted to live somewhere warm, so we moved from London to Los Angeles… we settled in Hollywood and Douglas investigated show business and found, to his great surprise, that he didn’t like it as a profession.”

In 2002, Hilda recalled, “Douglas was an accomplished photographer [who]…foresaw the growth of California and the future need for housing and the constant needs of shelter magazines for material to fill their pages, so he started a business to supply the need, specializing in architect designed houses affordable to young homemakers…”

“We started with Sunday Home Magazine of the Los Angeles Times which editors around the country kept an eye on, and editors would call Douglas… We selected our own subject matter, paid our own expenses, had no employees, Douglas was the photographer, I was his ‘set decorator’ and took care of the business side, and the whole enterprise just grew and grew,” Hilda Simmonds later stated.

Before retiring in San Luis Obispo, Douglas and Hilda travelled on scouting trips in the early part of the year, “…to select houses architects would have asked us to see, then shooting in the spring and summer, darkroom work and writing and assembling the material for submission to editors in the fall and winter and then, towards the end of the year a trip back to London and Europe…,” Hilda Simmonds later remembered.

Alongside his contemporaries Marvin Rand and Julius Shulman, Simmonds’ images came to capture post-war living in Southern California. Shooting for most shelter magazines of the era, the photographer documented a myriad of designers’ work including architects Homer Delawie and Frederick Liebhardt in San Diego as well as Welton Beckett, William Krisel and others across California.

In December 2002, I drove retired architect Homer Delawi to visit with Hilda Simmonds (1913-2003) only months before her passing. During this last visit, she handed Mr. Delawie the last of the few remaining images from the collection that she had discarded after her husband’s death. Their fondness for Mr. Delawie over the decades prompted the elderly couple to hold on to images documenting his early career knowing they would one day hand deliver them to him.

Lloyd Ruocco's 'Solari Residence' photograph by Douglas Simmonds