Playful Photos of Southern California’s Swimming Pool Culture

Swimming pools have long been a cornerstone of Southern California’s joyful way of living. A focal point for recreation, architecture, and entertainment, the size and shape of the pool — as well as the carefree activities that take place around it — hold big bragging rights for actors, directors, designers, and artists living in Palm Springs, LA, and the surrounding, arid region. Backyard Oasis — a colorful survey of swimming pools in Southern California photography from 1945 to 1982, which was recently on exhibit at the Palm Springs Art Museum and also comes as a comprehensive, table-top monograph, published by Prestel — captures the power of the shapely pools and beauties that surround them, in all of its glory.

From architectural gems, once inhabited by Frank Sinatra and Raymond Loewy, and signature artworks by John Baldessari, David Hockney, and Ed Ruscha to sexy celebrities like Rock Hudson and Marilyn Monroe posed poolside and skateboarders riding the curves of empty concrete bowls, Backyard Oasis — encompassing its own massive pool of creativity — packs a cool and powerful punch. Click though a selection of our favorite photos from the exhibition and the book.

Michael Childers, The Hockney Swimmer, 1978. Courtesy Michael Childers. © Michael Childers