Air Photos

Aerial Photo Archive store banner with picture of a cruise ship at centerThe Benjamin and Gladys Thomas

Air Photo Archives



Two of the finest and most extensive oblique photograph collections of California are housed in the The Benjamin and Gladys Thomas Air Photo Archives at the UCLA Department of Geography.  Many researchers find our collections an invaluable historical record for sites of interest.  Because the photographs are oblique (photos taken at an angle instead of straight down) they provide a very descriptive view allowing easier determination of how property was used over the years.


Spence Air Photos, Inc. Oblique low altitude black and white aerial photographs taken between the years 1918-1971.  These photographs were taken at a variety of latitudes, angles, and directions, making the collection a huge assortment of unique shots. Areas covered: Extensive coverage of Los Angeles, Ventura, and Orange Counties.  Southern California airports, refineries, factories, schools, hospitals, country clubs, motion picture studios, and miscellaneous real estate.  Limited coverage of the following California counties: San Diego, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Monterey, Imperial, Inyo, Fresno, Kern, Mono, Placer, San Bernardino, and Riverside. Limited coverage of other California regions including the San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Nevada, Mojave and Colorado Deserts, and the Colorado River. Very limited coverage of Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and other western states.

Fairchild Aerial Surveys A variety of oblique low altitude black and white aerial photographs of Southern California between the years 1927 and 1964.


The Benjamin and Gladys Thomas Air Photo Archives are available for viewing, and digital copies of desired photographs may be ordered.  Viewing time is scheduled by appointment only.  Please telephone in advance (310-206-8188 or to reserve a time to view the collection.  Upon arrival, you will be able to conduct a search through the print collection. Because many of our photos are old and delicate, the viewer must  use the utmost care in handling the photos.  The collection is organized by area and year, making it easy to use for someone with experience using air photographs. Someone will initially explain to you how the collections are organized and in which files your site may be located.  You are responsible for conducting your own research and making observations and judgements of the photographs.  Requests for copies are subject to approval, and the Geography Department retains the right to deny or limit any request.

We are located in Bunche Hall room A145.  Bunche Hall is located in the northeastern part of the UCLA campus.  Parking on campus is scarce during the school year, however metered parking is occasionally available nearby.  Public parking is available in Westwood Village and a free Campus Express shuttle can be taken from the stop across from the Peter Ueberroth building.  The stop closest to us is Murphy Hall.  Campus maps are available at information booths located at campus entrances.  Parking is readily available during holiday and summer breaks, buy a parking pas at a kiosk and request Parking Lot 3.


Through December 31, 2022: the archives are on reduced availability. For inquiries, please contact us via e-mail



Viewing fee: $40 per hour (1 hour minimum)
Scans on CD $50 + 8.75% sales tax per image
Remote Research Fee: $80 per hour
Publication Fee $200 per image per edition

Fees must be paid in full at the time of viewing or ordering scans. Checks should be made payable to the “Regents of the University of California.”  Sorry, no cash or credit cards.

Photographs used for publication should appropriately credit the “The Benjamin and Gladys Thomas Air Photo Archives” and indicate which collection (Spence or Fairchild) was used.

Purchase of photographs does not include resale or publication rights unless specific written permission is granted from the UCLA Department of Geography and appropriate fees are paid.

The Department of Geography and the Regents of the University of California make no claims or warranties with regard to photographs in the Air Photo Archives.

You can reach us at: 310-206-8188 or