Perspective is the most important element in photography. The perspective that I refer to is not visual but the mental way that one approaches making pictures. Personally it extends far beyond my photographic work and plays an integral part in who I am today. My work is a direct manifestation of my perspective, one that cannot be properly interpreted without some insight into the worldview behind it.
My photography is an act of rebellion fueled by frustration. The rebellious aspect is the struggle against the narrative of life in Los Angeles pushed and promoted by popular culture. This is the narrative that places more value on the transforming the city’s cultural epicenters into hipster enclaves than on the vibrant communities that made these areas desirable in the first place. This same phenomenon is also what generates the frustration. It’s a variation of the Columbus effect, where the media is more likely to lavish praise on newcomers to the city “discovering” their quaint, charming new neighborhoods while remaining blissfully ignorant to the fact that these areas existed (and were being documented) long before they arrived. To be clear, there is nothing wrong with moving to a new area and photographing a neighborhood (whether it’s yours or if you’re just exploring) for any reason. The problem is when those images begin to supplant the history of that neighborhood due to affluence, privilege, or some combination of the two.
I believe that the only way to counteract this erasure is to create, support, and promote photography that is reflective of the true soul of the community. Instead of joining the legions of native Angelenos bemoaning the advent of the hipster apocalypse, I’ve decided to use this as an opportunity to create (through my personal site, The Los Angeles Recordings) and promote (through Snapshot Galleria) work that is thoughtful and offers a unique insight into life in the city. This perspective can only be acquired by living here for a while and actually caring about the culture of the city that exists.
Because this is happening in urban neighborhoods across the nation, I wanted to share my thoughts on what can be done to stem the tide. Photography is unique in that it can be both creative expression and historical document simultaneously. This makes it a powerful medium, with the potential to color people’s memories and recollections one way or another. It’s up to us to change the trajectory of the narrative so that the neighborhoods we’ve grown to cherish aren’t completely erased from the picture.