Pioneer L. A. Photographer Dick Whittington, 89, Dies

Times Staff Writer

Wayne (Dick) Whittington, who opened one of the first commercial photography studios in Los Angeles and over the years took many if not most of the photos that now fill the archives of those concerned with preserving the city’s heritage, is dead at age 89.

He died Monday in a Torrance hospital.

In a career that lasted nearly 60 years Whittington, among other things, devised a mobile laboratory that made possible the transmission of the first photos of the Rose Bowl football game directly from the stadium to newspapers and wire services in the Midwest and East, captured the spectacle of the 1932 Olympics and the early air races that emanated from Mines Field, now Los Angeles International Airport, and sold sports and news photos to newspapers that their own cameramen had missed.

Millions of Negatives

The millions of negatives that his staff amassed over those years now repose at California State University, Long Beach, and the Huntington Library in San Marino.

Whittington, a native of Los Angeles and a former USC student, first set up shop in a garage at his home near the USC campus. As business expanded, he converted the studio and home to a Tudor garden complex, complete with swimming pool for aquatic assignments.

After World War II, during which his studios were under contract to the Navy, he moved closer to downtown Los Angeles, on West Olympic Boulevard, where the studio continues to stand.


As one of only three or four photography studios in the city, he was called upon by Ford to take pictures of passengers flying east on its new Trimotor plane; of silent screen actress Mary Brian holding a giant balloon on which was lettered the 20,000-mile guarantee then being offered by the old India Tires firm; of the construction of the Griffith Park Observatory and Planetarium, and of shiny new Packard and Hudson automobiles.

Illustrated Buildings

And he illustrated buildings--the exquisitely cavernous old Los Angeles Theater, the Southern California Telephone Building on South Olive, the Studebaker car factory in Vernon and Union Station with its mammoth Fred Harvey Restaurant.

Whittington’s cameras were on hand when Donald Douglas brought his DC-3 to Union Air Terminal in Burbank, when motorcyclists first began racing on the dirt track at Gilmore Stadium and when “Remember Pearl Harbor” signs were placed around the Foreman & Clark marquee at 7th and Hill streets shortly after the outbreak of World War II.

He is survived by one son, Edward, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.