Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Documentary Project

Remember the portrait project I did for my photography class? Well here is my documentary project. I would have liked to post this sooner, but I actually just got my project back from my professor. The long description is below, but for those with limited attention spans (like me) the short description is that I documented what I saw as I walked from downtown LA to Silverlake. It took about 3 1/2 hours, but I was able to notice details that are totally lost when you drive instead of walk.

To see the larger version of the pictures (which I highly encourage, you will be able to see so many more details) just right click and select "view image."

Long Description:

The idea behind my documentary project was to walk around Los Angeles and photograph the type of sights I would normally not notice when driving in a car. When initially formulating my documentary project proposal, there was no particular subject or event that I was inspired to photograph. Since there was nothing specific I wanted to focus on, I decided to take a kind of open-ended, "see what I can see" approach to my documentary project.

When I lived in Washington, D.C. prior to law school, I had always enjoyed wandering around the neighborhoods on the weekend for fun or using walking as my main means of transportation. I liked all the details of the city I was able to see as I walked, details I would have missed if I had taken the metro. But when I moved to L.A., I fell out of the habit of walking except in my immediate neighborhood. Everything was so spread out, and the connections between neighborhood centers did not seem well maintained, making me feel uneasy about walking through all the space in between point A and point B. But after reading a few articles this semester about walking in L.A., I came to realize that I could walk from point A to point B, absorbing all of the details of the city while I walked. It would just be a longer and a less (conventionally) attractive walk than it was in D.C.

Once I settled on documenting what I saw as a walked, the only thing left to plan was my route. Initially, I thought it would be clever to walk down one road for a long time and document its change as the road continued, concentrating on the increase in wealth as I traveled west. But while discussing project ideas in class, I realized someone else had the exact same idea, and, thus, the idea was not as clever as I had originally thought.

I changed my focus to exploring Silverlake and Echo Park and the hidden staircases that wove through the hills in those neighborhoods, but in the end, those staircases became only a small part of my project. I had read about an event called The Big Parade, where once a year one man leads a community of walkers up and down all of these staircases over the course of two days. The walk intrigued me because the creator described all of the hidden communities he discovered that could only be reach through these staircases (no driveway or street access). It reminded me of communities I had discovered in D.C. that were tucked away in alleys, on tiny one way streets, or inside of blocks. I decided to recreate part of The Big Parade on my own and photograph what I saw, scenes that were not accessible from street level, but I discovered on my walk up to Silverlake that there were so many interesting details on every street. Before I got to the first staircase, I had already finish shooting my first role of film.

When I developed my film, I had a hard time deciding which photographs to print because I found so many of them interesting and also because I felt that there was value in seeing many of these images together. The people and objects in the photographs were all very different, but all located near by one another, coexisting in a relatively small radius. I decided I wanted to print as many of the photographs as I could to show the diversity. This diversity was beyond the change in wealth as you walk west on Beverly, the kind of diversity I was initially interested in photographing. Although I saw some clear differences in wealth as I walked, I was more interested in the diversity of personality shown through how people on the street acted, what types of businesses existed, and how the environment was treated.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Very interesting! I know I'm biased but I think you did a great job!