The City of Angels
“Lucifer Rocks On”
The City of Angels by BP
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Southern California is home away from home.
I took every opportunity to get out and shoot, especially the Streets of LA. It’s my first time to since finding how much I really like doing street. My son’s godmother (who is from LA) always told me I should shoot down there. That if I could get lost (metaphorically speaking) in Seattle when I go out to shoot, then LA will be totally crazy for me. Well my son’s godmother, this is for you!
I shot the streets. This time around I took down notes. Notes that helped me remember the moments I shared with folks when I talked to them, both strangers and family/friends and just my own thoughts and opinions – I wanted to make sure I caught the moments outside of the shots I took. I had the opportunity to walk one of Sam’s routes in DTLA with him. Sam is a street shooter who I totally respect. I got to see his process, his style. It’s great to see others at work. I was so caught up in watching him, that I only took a few shots and then my battery died. Earlier that day, I had shot the fashion district – specifically around Santee Alley. That in itself was a crazy ordeal. Santee Alley is a swap meet of sorts – used to be known to sell bootleg brands until it got broke down by the Feds. Rumor has it it is run by some international cartel. Not really hard to believe. I had a lady chase me down and call me out (I’ve never been called out before. She thought I was “filming/recording.” You just know they still trippin from the Fed raids). After this encounter, I noticed two guys following me and my cousin just about every where. It was nerve racking for sure. That’s definitely a “neighborhood block watch.” It was one of them stories I’m definitely going to share in another article. That one will be about some of the craziness of shooting street.
“The No-Music Ice Cream Man”
Sidenote: For all you street photography purists; only 2 of these photos was where I asked to take their shot. Can you guess which two?
I wanted to see what I could do in LA. Although time was REAL limited, I wanted to take some opportunities to capture what I saw and heard in the City of Angels. The light is real harsh mid-day. I wanted to try for those shots. All of these shots were taken either on Melrose, Venice Beach, Hollywood and Highland, or Downtown LA. All of them were taken between the times of 12-4 PM. The light is truly unforgiving during these times. I saw it as a huge challenge. I tried my best.
“Anyone able to take Spidey back to Burbank? Meet Hitch-hiking Spiderman.”
Hollywood and Highland. The famous Walk of Fame. Full of tourists. I MEAN FULL of tourists. It was overwhelming to be honest. We had just gotten back from visiting the “Wild Card Gym” owned by Freddie Roach, where Jamie Fox, Mark Wahlberg, and of course the pound for pound World Champion Manny Pacquiao train. Come out of the elevator from the parking structure and bam…OVERWHELMED by the tourists. Along with the tourists come the likes of Spiderman, Dora, Bumblebee, Samuel Jackson, Zorro…just a whole mess of people dressed up in these costumes for tourists to take pictures with…at a price. I tried to take a couple shots of these folks…one saying I owe money and the other (dammit all to hell it came out blurry) of Cat woman, flipping me off and calling me a whole mess of names with cuss words in the front. I even saw one of them “taking a break.” She looked nothing like a celebrity. My cousin whispers to me, “all the costumed folks are either homeless folks or drug addicts…you have to choose wisely to who you give money to.”
Ain’t that some shit.
This is not the Walk of Fame you see on the TV and movie screens. The removing of the masks and costumes is pretty indicative of the society we live. Without going into too much social commentary, we are all trying to live the good life, and some of us have to hide behind things in order for it to show some fruits of labor (shoot I’m in this bunch for sure).
“The Mannequin’s Mannequin”
“This photo is going to make you famous.” – Al, DTLA Street Musician
Downtown LA is rich with amazing architecture. Unused and abandoned, its a deserted land full of new highrises shadowing some great detailed old relics of the past. Forgotten to the Staples Center, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and the new Cathedral, these buildings scream stories to those who try to listen and pay attention. I talked to a friend and his wife about it. They would tell me of stories of coming down with their parents, who owned a business in the area and even back then, remember being scared to come down after sundown. It wasn’t just the people in the area after dark, it was the buildings that shared its anger towards LA citizens.
“It was like the buildings, beautiful by way of architecture, turned into scary horror movie dwellings…the ones only the stupid people would want to break into.”
The city needs to replenish this area to make it vibrant again. DTLA is too beautiful to stay like it is. Who am I to say this though? It’s been this way for decades.
DTLA is where I really saw the parts where not too many tourists want to go. The “Skid Row” in DTLA is nothing to mess with. Sam recognized some of the homeless folks that he had taken portraits with and we took some photos of them. Again I was more enamored with Sam walking his streets. We came across a sidewalk with about 7-8 homeless folks. A couple of them singing songs. Sam approached them and a couple of them obliged with their photos being taken. The guitar player who was the more interesting of the bunch was real elusive. I didn’t want to push trying to snap his photo so I ended up talking to another man away from this bunch. He told me a couple of his stories despite not wanting his photo taken. He said these streets were hard, but since he’s lived on them his whole life just about (27 years) he didn’t really know any better. He just knows its hard because people like me tell him so.
“I’m still alive and thats really what counts don’t it man. I mean, it would be fucked up if you were out here taking photos of dead bodies and shit. I ain’t dead, by no means am I dead.”
“They know of each other, but don’t know each other”
Melrose Avenue was a typical spot for me. Boulevard for urban style and wear. It’s like the anti-thesis to Rodeo drive. I actually think its considered the Fairfax district. It’s supposed to be the alternative area. Reminds me a lot of Capitol Hill or the Ave in Seattle’s U-District. It’s the boutiques and the tattoo shops and other shops like this that give this street character. Street art lace the buildings and alleys that compliment the neighborhood persona. It was just OK for me. It wasn’t like I haven’t seen anything like it in any other major American city.
“Venice Beach 911″
Venice Beach. The infamous Venice Beach right?!? It was like I walked onto a movie set. Palm trees line out the beach horizon. Tourists and locals alike all in one spot. The latter trying its damndest to squeeze out a penny. Street performers, muscle builders, store vendors, tattoo shops, skate boarders, the basketball courts…all centered around the police station. I would say that the amount of police in Venice was based on a quota system for sure. Maybe 15-1, 20-1, general public to one police officer. Heavy concentration around the hustlers selling their hip hop CDs south of the basketball courts. Scene of “White Men Can’t Jump” and “American History X” plays in my head when I was walking through this part of the beach.
Many years ago when I had first come to Venice Beach, a friend of mine told me that there were days specified for when the “gangs” of LA would come out. For instance Saturday was the day the Bloods would come out. Sundays the Crips. It’s crazy to walk through and think of the under belly of places, like its a beach, really?!? There are designated “gang days.”
I think from the places I shot in LA, Venice Beach was the one that was like a playground feel for me (as far as shooting). It seemed that everyone really wanted to have their photo taken whether they knew it or not. It would seem that I was taking a candid shot and then afterwards walk away feeling like, “damn, did they know I was taking their photo?” It seemed like a show, a small amusement park at times. I actually heard a tourist tell his wife, “I think next we should go to the skateboarding area. I heard that they put on a great show over there.” His wife responds, “Sure but Muscle Beach is supposed to start with a few bodybuilders and I don’t want to miss that.”
My friend who told me about the “gang days” grew up in Venice Beach. She said this the epitomy of LA (at least to her). Los Angeles is a tourist trap, hiding all of its glory in smoke and mirrors. Sometimes you can tell its fake, other times it inspires you to become what you may think is real.
“The Dodgers Fan”
My friend, Chris, told me, “It’s like the Dodgers, right…either you love them or you hate them…if you love them, you are ride or die…you hate them, you can’t wait to see them falter…Los Angeles is exactly like the Dodgers. Actually the Dodgers is exactly like Los Angeles.” This coming from someone who was born and raised in Los Angeles.
Really it was fun to shoot down there. Possibilities were endless for a photographer. The City of Angels does not disappoint for sure.
So hopefully ya’ll enjoy the photos and enjoy my memory notetaking ramblings below.
It’s this love hate relationship.
Boulevards seperate fast cars and money from street vendors and bootleg DVD’s.
It’s the beauty of America.
Gangsters who are classless, nameless, raceless, and faceless.
Their names can be Aniston or Acevedo. Chavez or Clooney. Kardashian or Kortajarena.
Their addiction can be money.
“We all love ice cream”
The freeways are the veins; ill-thrust between pockets of countries that carry us – flush inside the ugliness of Pre-Americana and Post-New World Order.
405 to San Diego. I-5 to the Valley. Sunset sleep walkers searching for the next fix – on life, love, and hate.
We walk by them everyday with ticker tape parades and news channel slogans.
Homicide rates up, unemployment rates up, heat index up.
Human consumption up, human compassion down.
“So a hair stylist, his dog, and a photographer walk into a bar”
We became them in another life. I saw myself in the reflection of the window and I disappeared.
It’s the Maserati blazing down the 101; bobbin and weavin past us. Blonde hair, hands raised, celebrating nothing but the gas prices spent on their 6 digit whip.
It’s the Toyota Previa; full to the top with boxes of tourist paraphernalia; slang at the corners of the fashion district, hands raised, celebrating nothing but the chance to haggle down; stealing milk and bread from hungry children’s mouths.
I saw the real citizen. Ugly with dislike for Obama and Romney. 4 for $4 sunglasses, tipped at the point of the nose, slip middle finger – disdain for anything other than Los Angeles. Now I understand the love for the Dodgers and the Lakers. They represent the golden ticket. It’s the stars in their eyes.
I can hear them when they wake up in the morning and tell themselves, “I’m gonna make it someday.”
“Hats and Agua”
It’s her love for being in this dirty moment. His want to get that hit passed his costume uniform standing on the stars of Hollywood as a fire truck sits in wait for the next heart attack. It’s chance to give a show to the masses. That Hollywood sign up on the hills hides their addiction real well.
I saw the real citizen. Louis Vutton and Deja Vu sellin’ the same shit to all of us. It ain’t about the backroads, it’s about the quick slant to get the fuck out.
Cat woman by day, stripper by night.
Spider man by day, dealer by night.
Seek the shade, the sun is unforgiving. It’s light will show us the truth and noone wants to hear it. Don’t go downtown in the dark. You may not come out. It’s been dead there for years. Those people been dead there for years.
There was an earthquake the other day in Beverly Hills. It gave the Kardashians type folks a chance to get out to the hood. Ryan Seacrest has another idea for a reality show. It’s him looking at himself in the mirror. It’s pretty fucking dramatic. and real.
It will probably only last one season. The networks don’t want this kind of shit. Leave it to the indie studios. They aren’t in it for the money.
If they do it’s real low so watch you’re back.
“Live for Now”
“The Modern Day Samurai”
The homeless become landscapes and structures. Step over them, or around them. They are mute because when they do choose to have a voice, it ain’t loud enough for anyone to hear.
What you doing man with that camera phone? This ain’t some child porn shit right? It’s not, then take a shot of my good side.
Play me a song again.
Dance man, Dance.
Some angels here choose not to fly anymore, others are always flying above us, they just don’t know where to land.
“Meditations and Lines”
I pieced as best as I could the thoughts and lines I wrote down. I didn’t want to make each line a caption for a photo as I think all the captions could work for any particular photo. I hope ya’ll dig it.
SHOUTOUT to the LA Folks/ Shooters. Next time hopefully we will shoot together.
OH yeah…I love my family!