Margolies, John 1940(?)-

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Margolies, John 1940(?)-


Born c. 1940. Education: University of Pennsylvania, B.A., 1962, M.A., 1964.


E-mail—[email protected]


Freelance author, photographer, and lecturer. Worked for four years as an assistant editor for the Architectural Record, and then as program director of the Architectural League of New York; has taught at the University of California at Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, the Pratt Institute, and the California Institute of Arts. Has exhibited his work in the United States and England, including at the National Building Museum, Washington, DC; the Museum and Nature Center, Stamford, CT; the Lincoln Center, New York, NY; the University of Arkansas School of Architecture; and the Museum of Modern Art, Virginia Beach, VA. Has appeared on television specials on the History Channel and A & E Network.


John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation fellowship, 1978, for architectural criticism; Josephine Patterson Albright Fellow, Alicia Patterson Foundation, 2003, for photojournalism; recipient of other fellowships and grants from the Wyeth Endowment for American Art, the Howard Gilman Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.


(Photographer) Alf Evers and others, Resorts of the Catskills, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1979.

The End of the Road: Vanishing Highway Architecture in America, Viking-Penguin (New York, NY), 1981.

(Photographer) Nina Garfinkel and Maria Reidelbach, John Margolies's Miniature Golf, Abbeville Press (New York, NY), 1987.

(Photographer) Emily Gwathmey, Ticket to Paradise: American Movie Theaters and How We Had Fun, prologue by Harold Ramis, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1991.

(Compiler, with Suzanne Slesin and Emily Gwathmey) Have Some Sand: The Gritty Side of Love, Clarkson Potter (New York, NY), 1992.

(With Suzanne Slesin and Emily Gwathmey) Dimpled Lunatics: The Mad World of Babyhood, Clarkson Potter (New York, NY), 1993.

(With Emily Gwathmey) Signs of Our Time, Abbeville Press (New York, NY), 1993.

Pump and Circumstances: Glory Days of the Gas Station, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1993.

Home Away from Home: Motels in America, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1995.

(With Douglas A. Yorke) Hitting the Road: The Art of the American Road Map, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 1996.

Fun along the Road: American Tourist Attractions, Little, Brown (Boston, MA), 1998.

(With Eric Baker) See the USA: The Art of the American Travel Brochure, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2000.

(With Georgia Orcutt) Cooking USA: 50 Favorite Recipes from across America, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2004.

(With Georgia Orcutt) Cookout USA: Grilling Favorites Coast to Coast, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2006.

(With Georgia Orcutt) Blue Ribbon USA: Prize Winning Recipes from State Fairs across America, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2007.

Contributor of articles and photographs to periodicals, including Smithsonian, Esquire, Architectural Record, Historic Preservation, and New York Times Magazine.


Known as an architectural photographer, John Margolies has been actively taking pictures since the 1970s of America's disappearing pop culture buildings. The photographer travels the country looking for old diners, movie houses, gas stations, beauty parlors, and other structures from an era before large corporations took over many businesses to bring a homogeneous appearance to most buildings. Structures such as old drive-up burger restaurants and art deco movie theaters are quickly being torn down and replaced, and Margolies has noted that many of the buildings he took pictures of in the 1970s and even more recently are now gone. His mission is inspired by the notion that his subjects were an important part of American culture: "I think what we do in our everyday experience and with our everyday lives is the most important thing of all, and it's what defines our culture …,' he explained to Ellen Warren in a Chicago Tribune article. "What I take pictures of are the commercial aspects of that culture. The stores we go to. The movie theaters we go to."

In Ticket to Paradise: American Movie Theaters and How We Had Fun, Margolies and author Emily Gwathmey cover the 1950s and 1960s era of movie houses. The photographer includes not only pictures of the theaters, but also of movie paraphernalia, ranging from ticket stubs to usher outfits. "Everything about this book is precisely on target," reported Peter Blake in Interior Design: "the design is beautifully appropriate to the subject, and the typography ranges from early Underwood to late Aqua Velva." Blake also remarked appreciatively on how Margolies's work opens "people's eyes to things that had long been ignored or condemned or despised; I know he opened mine."

Margolies's subjects in Pump and Circumstances: Glory Days of the Gas Station are the old filling stations from back in the days when customer service was of paramount importance and the full-service station was the norm. Gas stations pursued all sorts of strategies to lure customers, including creating elaborate buildings in eye-catching styles, if not always in good taste. Erica Kornberg lauded the author and photographer in an Entertainment Weekly review for "showcasing what images remain" of that bygone era. In Motor Trend, Gregory Von Dare enthusiastically announced that "it's been years since I've had so much pure dam[n] fun with an automotive book of any kind. What John Margolies has done is capture not just the design of American gas pumps and the stations they served, but issue a joyous reminder of the wacky and wonderful people we are and have been for the majority of this century on wheels."

The somewhat related Hitting the Road: The Art of the American Road Map is about the maps published and distributed for free to Americans in an effort to encour- age them to take road trips and, thus, buy more gasoline. The book "is a beautiful celebration of the high commercial art that flourished in these classy giveaways," according to one American Heritage contributor. A natural follow-up to this book is Fun along the Road: American Tourist Attractions, which includes photos and descriptions of kitschy roadside stops, such as ghost towns and miniature golf courses.

Margolies's photography has been the object of increasing attention in recent years as audiences have come to recognize the value of preserving America's pop culture past. The U.S. State Department even organized a touring exhibition for the photographer in 2006 that took over fifty of his best photos to various museums and other exhibition halls throughout the world. Obsessive about his work, Margolies told Warren: "I do have a goal in life: To go everywhere; To see everything…. Nearly nothing I shot 25 years ago still exists…. I'm the architectural undertaker. The bulldozer comes through just after I'm here."



American Heritage, April, 1993, review of Ticket to Paradise: American Movie Theaters and How We Had Fun, p. 126; April, 1994, review of Pump and Circumstance: Glory Days of the Gas Station, p. 114; July-August, 1996, review of Hitting the Road: The Art of the American Road Map, p. 102; April-May, 2004, "The Streets Are Paved with Wigwams: The Great American Road Hits the Road," brief profile of John Margolies, p. 23.

Booklist, April 1, 1996, Gilbert Taylor, review of Hitting the Road, p. 1340.

Chicago Tribune, July 7, 2003, Ellen Warren, "Photographer-Writer John Margolies Compulsively Chronicles the Architectural Aspects of a Dying America."

Entertainment Weekly, April 23, 1993, Sharon Isaak, review of Signs of Our Time, p. 53; January 21, 1994, Erica Kornberg, review of Pump and Circumstance, p. 49; December 8, 1995, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, review of Home Away from Home: Motels in America, p. 62; June 19, 1998, Margot Mifflin, review of Fun along the Road: American Tourist Attractions, p. 68.

Interior Design, March, 1992, Peter Blake, review of Ticket to Paradise, p. 142.

Motor Trend, April, 1994, Gregory Von Dare, review of Pump and Circumstance, p. 27.

People, September 7, 1987, Ralph Novak, review of John Margolies's Miniature Golf, p. 21.

Publishers Weekly, January 13, 1992, review of Have Some Sand: The Gritty Side of Love, p. 43; October 25, 1992, review of Ticket to Paradise, p. 50; February 16, 2004, review of Cooking USA, p. 168.

Smithsonian, November, 1988, Phil Patton, "Real America, Where Sky Is Blue and Buildings Run Wild," profile of John Margolies, p. 112.


John Margolies Home Page, (February 25, 2007).