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Helen Lukens Gaut’s photography reflects the essentials of her life and especially her interest in reconciling the products of the machine age (in this case, the automobile) to the virgin land. American historian Leo Marx explored this theme in his book The Machine in the Garden. Marx writes, "Within the lifetime of a single generation, a rustic and in large part wild landscape was transformed into the site of the world's most productive industrial machine. It would be difficult to imagine more profound contradictions of value or meaning than those made manifest by this circumstance.” Marx identifies tension between the pastoral ideal in America and the rapid and sweeping transformations wrought by machine technology. This tension is expressed by the recurring image of the machine in the garden--that is, the sudden and shocking intrusion of technology into a pastoral scene.

Southern California’s Evolving Landscape: The Photography of Helen Lukens Gaut (1872-1955) offers the public a first look at prints of some of the 200 negatives by Gaut recently acquired by PMH through a generous donation from Alyce de Roulet Williamson.

Southern California's Evolving Landscape is a curated digital exhibition featuring photographs and objects from the partners of Pasadena Digital History Collaboration. The PDHC database currently contains over 50,000 records related to Pasadena’s history. To view and search our entire collection, please visit us at