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Harry A. Kay 1930s Santa Cruz Photographer

By Frank Perry

This article is part of the MAH’s Online History Journal, a collection of original research on local history. Dive deep into Santa Cruz County history in this ever- growing forum and start creating your own.

Landscapes are forever changing. What better way to capture the present moment than with a camera? Harry Kay was a little known resident of Santa Cruz who took photographs of Santa Cruz County from 1930-1940.


Kay arrived in Santa Cruz from Los Angeles in 1930. He immediately set to work taking pictures of the iconic waves along Westcliff. As well as capturing the natural beauty of the town, he also set up studios in various locations around town to take portraits. Some of Kay’s photos of scenic spots of Monterey Bay were turned into photo postcards and sold to tourists, three for ten cents. Continuing to support Santa Cruz, he worked with the Chamber of Commerce to put together a publication which showcased Santa Cruz as a tourist destination. Kay covered stories for news outlets up and down the coast. One of his photographs showed brave Santa Cruzans swimming in Monterey Bay. The image appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Imagine a time when pictures took hours of careful composition and development. It really was about getting a perfect image that would last for generations. Photographs could be a diary to show how a city developed and changed.

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Keep reading about how Kay’s work became a visual record of Santa Cruz during the Great Depression.