Images Of america - laguna beach

2009 Arcadia Publishing - Claire Marie Vogel


In 2008, I was working in a tiny, independent book shop in Laguna Beach, California and I could recommend a book to anyone who walked through the door. I loved puzzling together a recommendation based off of the customers favorite authors, genres, and interests. Over my three years at the bookshop, the thing that was constantly requested, but rarely available was a book about the city of Laguna Beach itself. Between its rugged beaches, great surfing, art galleries, art festivals and our high school’s recent reality tv show, tourists came in droves and they often wanted to take a piece of the town home with them. Unfortunately, at the time there were only two books on the subject. One was bulky and cost about $100. The other was out of print.

One day, I got a phone call at the store from Arcadia Publishing. We had carried various titles by Arcadia, specifically the series Images of America, which were pictorial histories of various towns across the US. They were calling to ask if we would have any interest in carrying a book about Laguna and if we knew someone who might be fit to write it. I told them I would speak to the two authors of the independently published books we had to see if they were interested, as they often frequented the store. Over the next couple weeks, I was able to ask the first one, face to face. Being much older now, he didn’t really have interest in writing the book, but to my surprise, suggested I write the book myself. He would gladly give me any guidance I needed. Being 20 years old and about to leave town to go to art school, I thought this was a totally outlandish idea, but I was intrigued. The second author was also uninterested, but agreed that if I needed any help doing it myself, he’d be there.

So, without really knowing what I was doing, I called the publisher back, relayed my conversations, and said that I would like to write the book myself. They were happy to hear the news and offered to support my path along the way.

The last thing I wanted to do was simply take the other book’s photos and text and shlep it into a more affordable book. I decided I needed to uncover untold images and stories of the town, and in order do this I needed to find people willing to let me into their homes, photo albums and family histories.

It turned out working in the book store was a great way to get the word out. I posted flyers on the front door, the checkout counter, poles around town and anywhere else I could tape, pin or staple one. I got calls and emails immediately from folks willing to take me through their family albums, scan photos and take down their stories. I bought a used scanner and began meeting with townspeople. The Laguna Beach Historical society and local photographer, James Nordstrom, became invaluable friends in sharing images and histories with me. I spent more time at the local library than ever before, and slowly began to compile a history of the town.

On March 30th, 2009, about halfway through my first year at CalArts, the book was released and though I wasn’t working at the bookstore anymore, they invited me back to host a release-night signing. People lined up out the door and around the corner. I was shocked. I didn’t know what to write or even how to consistently write my own clumsy signature, but I faked it til all of the books were signed and no one seemed to notice. Friends, family, classmates, customers and contributors came and we celebrated for hours in the shop that was more like a second home than anything else. Instead of being the sometimes surly book shop clerk, I was now the published author sometimes surly book shop clerk, who was sharing our town’s story in hopes of preserving it and celebrating what a special little place it is.


Author Claire Marie Vogel, a photographer, director and collector of antique photographs, worked closely with the Laguna Beach Historical Society and local photographer James Nordstrom to compile this captivating visual history of Laguna Beach.

Laguna Beach Vintage Postcards

In this collection of vintage-photograph postcards, Claire Marie Vogel explores the city's past.