The impermanence of shadows in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is a stark city. I like to bash it. I hate the the crowds, the falsities…but Los Angeles presents a gruesomely clear example of social and geographical evolution in our lifetimes. It’s like an urban fruit fly…each generation is born and dies while we study. Los Angeles is a “new” city. As such, it never had the opportunity to cement a tradition that could withstand the winds of petty change and empty trends. Los Angeles is a frail tree that tries to maintain its tentacled honor in the face of capricious societal whims. Los Angeles is a whore and she will shed her skin if the new cultural flavor is enticing enough.

Incidentally, the other day I was looking for old photos of Los Angeles. This city is peculiarly photogenic, but only in the macabre sense. The city presents the light joyousness of debauchery intermingled with the austere seclusion of misanthropic retreat. Los Angeles’ geography is vast for a large American urban center; not only vast, but varied and interlaced with a multitude of storied and murderous layers wavering between dark and light, night and day, life and death, success and failure. The all or nothing fate of those who come here to test their mettle is expressed in the lit and unlit tiles of our city-scape.

Here, you can choose to hide or display. But you can rarely rest between the two states. You either dance on the bright stage, or you hunker in the gloomy underbelly of the fractured concrete void. There is no area else you can exist here.

They is why Los Angeles is so prone to moody photographers. It allows those with a lens to tell a vacant but noisy story of life in this hidden jungle.

I found a great photo album from a blogger named John Humble who has apparently specialized in historic Los Angeles photography over the last 40 years. His technique fully utilizes the brilliant light structure that rains down from the unique atmosphere lens that domes this town.

This photo caught my eye. It is of a house in Hawthorne with a well-manicured lawn and a for sale sign. Unfortunately, the house sits at a crossroads. In the background, I imagine we’re looking at the skeletal precursors to the 105 freeway which displaced its fair share of residents in the late 80s-early 90s, and curiously, the parallel descent of an airliner headed to the airport. This small idyllic home with the deep green lawn is placed in deep anguish against a devouring backdrop which will stop at nothing to see it perish. It sits in the flight path of LAX and the destruction path of a new freeway. I doubt this house is around now.

This house embodies the random and vicious intersections of fate that live in this city. Living your day now, but the wolves always knock and wait for their moment. You can fade into the shadows but ultimately, in Los Angeles, shadows are never permanent.