Aerial Photographs

The term aerial photograph is often used to describe two very different things. They are photographs taken from an airplane and are organized into great detail with numbers signifying flight numbers and grids. Patrons needing historic aerial photographs by number or who are looking for historical, chronological, environmental or architectural information on specific sites over a period of time or are looking for changes in a piece of property or a neighborhood over time should be referred to the aerial photo-graph collections at UCLA or UCSB as describedbelow.

All of LAPL's aerial photo atlases burned in the fire of 1986 with the exception of one atlas of vertical aerial photographs taken in 1965 which covers just five areas:

  • Los Angeles county
  • Orange County
  • Pomona Valley
  • Riverside County
  • San Fernando

Vertical aerial photographs are more valuable for looks at streets and placement of open spaces on the photograph. Oblique aerial photos are more valuable for the appearance of buildings as they are shot from an angle and have more perspective. Many patrons who ask for aerial photographs are simply asking for panoramic views of the city regardless of whether the photos are taken from airplanes, tall buildings, blimps or hill tops. If the patron is looking for something to hang on the wall or for some non-specific view of Los Angeles they can be referred to the online photo collection of LAPL. The Photo Collection contains approximately 600 oblique aerial photos taken within the Los Angeles city limits. These photos do not have any captions or identifications. They are not indexed or filed by date and the lack of documentation means they are not useful as true aerial photographs. The photos are filed under the subject headings:

  • Los Angeles-Views-aerial
  • Los Angeles-Views-aerial-Civic Center
  • Los Angeles-Views-aerial-Central City
  • Los Angeles-views-Panoramic

The Aerial Photograph Collections

UCLA Spence collection (310) 206-8188 call for hours. These are oblique, low-altitude black and white photos taken from 1908 to 1971. There are over 100,000 images and they are indexed by Thomas Bros. atlases. The viewing fee is $25 and printing fees range from $30-$200.

Fairchild Collection is housed at UCSB: the most comprehensive aerial photograph collection of California known to exist.

LAPL's Lone Atlas

Aerial Photomap Books published by Aerial Surveying and Engineering under call number 912.7941 L88 Ae in 4 vols. Vertical black and white photos from 1965 only. These cannot be photocopied. Keyed to old-style Thomas Bros. atlases. Patrons should use Aerial Thomas Atlas at desk and find appropriate sheet number and the MC should bring out only the volume that coincides to the sheet number. Volume sheet numbers are lettered on spine.