Abstract Photosynthesis in purple bacteria is performed by pigment–protein complexes that are closely packed within specialized intracytoplasmic membranes. Here we report on the influence of carotenoid composition on the organization of RC–LH1 pigment–protein complexes in intact membranes and cells of Rhodobacter sphaeroides. Mostly dimeric RC–LH1 complexes could be isolated from strains expressing native brown carotenoids when grown under illuminated/anaerobic conditions, or from strains expressing green carotenoids when grown under either illuminated/anaerobic or dark/semiaerobic conditions. However, mostly monomeric RC–LH1 complexes were isolated from strains expressing the native photoprotective red carotenoid spheroidenone, which is synthesized during phototrophic growth in the presence of oxygen. Despite this marked difference, linear dichroism (LD) and light-minus-dark LD spectra of oriented intact intracytoplasmic membranes indicated that RC–LH1 complexes are always assembled in ordered arrays, irrespective of variations in the relative amounts of isolated dimeric and monomeric RC–LH1 complexes. We propose that part of the photoprotective response to the presence of oxygen mediated by synthesis of spheroidenone may be a switch of the structure of the RC–LH1 complex from dimers to monomers, but that these monomers are still organized into the photosynthetic membrane in ordered arrays. When levels of the dimeric RC–LH1 complex were very high, and in the absence of LH2, LD and ∆LD spectra from intact cells indicated an ordered arrangement of RC–LH1 complexes. Such a degree of ordering implies the presence of highly elongated, tubular membranes with dimensions requiring orientation along the length of the cell and in a proportion larger than previously observed.