I am going to be part of a great upcoming show on the LA River. Info below and I hope you can make it, should be a fun evening. Will post some of the photos from the show in the weeks leading up to the show
ANNOUNCING: Gallery Opening on Saturday,February 20th, 2016 – from 7-10pm
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Keystone Art Space will host an opening reception for “The Los Angeles River: A City Runs Through It” – a photography exhibition. The show features our personal explorations of this unique river. Come see the images by Diane Pirie Cockerill, Peter Bennett, Mark Indig, Sal Taylor Kydd, Kevin McCollister, Maureen Van Leeuwen Haldeman & Keith Douglas Skelton
This is the Sixth Street Bridge from a different angle. I took it from the end of the Viaduct just off S Boyle Ave on Whittier Blvd in East LA. A lot of homeless camping out nearby made this a little hairy, they have their encampments on the side of the hill overlooking the I-10
The Sixth Street Bridge is coming down soon, here is poster I made a few years ago. It entailed some sneaking through fences and dodging railroad guards and trains to cross the tracks that run alongside the river just south of the bridge. It was worth it as the sky that night was extraordinary. Available at – http://tinyurl.com/pagrp9y
Yay, first rains of the season, hopefully many more to come. This is from last year from the 7th Street Bridge towards the 6th Street Bridge. Amazing how that small trickle turns into a torrent in such a short time.
Another poster from my Historic Bridges series. My favorite is the Buena Vista Bridge which crosses the LA River at North Broadway and connects East LA with Chinatown. Available at http://tinyurl.com/q9x32x9
Not the LA River but all our waters are connected. Just did a series of environmental prints, this one was the result of unbelievable luck and timing and allowed me to line up the dolphins with the oil rig in the Catalina Channel – see more from this series – http://www.citizenoftheplanet.com
Vernon is a strange place to say the least. Miles and miles of industrial buildings, warehouses and food processing plants. The water tower along the river with the skyline in the background is one of the few bright spots. More from the Vernon Gallery here – http://www.citizenoftheplanet.com
So happy to have my photos used for the new LA River documentary: A Concrete River by Raphael Sbarge. This is the new promotional poster created for the film. This is the actual beginning of the Los Angeles River located in Canoga Park, where two channelized streams converge, Bell Creek from Simi Hills in the West and Arroyo Calabasas from the Santa Monica Mountains in the South. Their meeting forms a short flatiron shape with Canoga Park High School sitting atop it and laying back to the West.
Right now the film being submitted to festivals, but will let you know about showings and availability when its out. Here’s the trailer, definitely check it out – https://vimeo.com/136429637
We had a great night last night at the Laemmle NoHo for the premiere of a new LA River documentary – A Concrete River, Reviving the Waters of the LA River. The film was written and directed by my friend Rapahel Sbarge, star of the TNT show Murder in the First, and co-founder of Green Wish. I was able to help out a bit with the film, and contribute some of my stills which were on display in the gallery area, part of the Art in the Arthouse program at Laemmle Theatres. The film was so well received and did such a great job of explaining both the history of the river and its important relationship to Los Angeles, then and now. So well done! Proceeds of the night went to FoLAR which is doing amazing work especially at this critical juncture.
I was on a panel answering questions about the river including Raphael, FoLAR co-founder Lewis MacAdams, our host Greg Leammle, and actor and activist Ed Begley Jr.. A big part of the success of the evening was introducing so many people to the river – its beauty, its vitality and its importance to the future of our city.
Thanks so much to Rapahel for including me and inviting me to show my work, to Greg and Tish Laemmle who were amazing and generous hosts, and to Joshua Elias and Marc Horwitz for curating and helping me pull it all together.
The show will be up through October and on display in the theatre’s gallery. If you haven’t visited the Laemmle NoHo, treat yourself to a night at a great theatre in a great little neighborhood in NoHo.
On hot Summer days in Bell (like the ones we are having now), you might find many residents strolling along the river’s channel where the cool breezes funnel through and keep you cool. The river bed is extremely wide down there, but the thin culvert channels the water right down the center, attracting many birds and this family that was watching them.
A few years ago I was shooting a lot in Vernon (if you have been watching the HBO series True Detective, the town of Vinci is the town of Vernon). One evening I decided to go down the the LA River at Atlantic Blvd. There is a beautiful view of the downtown skyline from there and I got a few nice shots as the sun was setting. Tons of waterfowl were doing their thing but out of nowhere (for me, not the bird) a Great Blue Heron appeared amidst the green patches of bushes that grow out of the concrete river bed and lined up right with the skyline for the best shot of the evening.
This was shot a few years ago. I was sneaking around the train tracks on the east side of the river trying to get a good view of the 6th Street Bridge. Got lucky with some great clouds, not always easy in smoggy LA. This is great view of the entrance to the tunnel the film crews use to get down to the river, but I’ve seen a lot of folks just drive down it into the river bed. This will be closing very soon as the they get ready for the demolition scheduled for the Fall.
If you haven’t ever walked down to the river under the 6th Street Bridge, you probably only have only a few more weeks left before the ramp is closed off for the demolition that is about to begin. I took this last week, thinking it might be the last time I get down there myself. The end of an era!
I attended the 2nd annual LA River day at City Hall today. It was a day of celebration and commemorations as dozens of people filled the City Council chambers as Mitch O’Farrell and Tom LaBonge led the session. FoLAR Co-founder Lewis MacAdams read a poem, a golden oar and several plaques were given out, but in the end the river was the winner getting its due and holding out a bright future for the city. As the slogan goes: Our River, Our Future.
Shot this back in 2011. I was setting up a shot and just happened to look up and grab this with the plane. Just lucky that there was still enough light to have a shutter speed fast enough to freeze it.
If you’ve never had the chance to take part in the annual FoLAR La Gran Limpieza river clean up, you are going to have a chance over the next three weekends: April 11, 18 and 25th. You might say, “well gee Peter, make this sound good why dontcha!” OK, here goes. (A), it is actually fun. Tons of people show up for the chance to help out: young, old, families, couples and plenty of single folks all come out for a few hours and lend a hand cleaning up the river. Last Summer I watched as our Mayor traipsed around the thick underbrush, plucking plastic bags and other assorted trash out of the trees as he went along.
I have met so many great people at these events; one of the most memorable was the old couple in the photo below. He told me he flew back into town, cutting off a business trip just to participate; he never likes to miss the clean-up. He said he was in his nineties and still running a successful business. Now I’m not saying there is a correlation between regularly volunteering your time at river clean-ups and being a healthy, wealthy Nonagenarian, but hey…
(B) It really is a great way to explore a part of your community, or if you are from a another part of the city like me, the opportunity to learn about a part of town you may not have known much about before. The river is changing and becoming a vital part of this this city, something that is long past due. Kayaking and fishing in the Summer are now just two of the activities you can partake in. Biking along its ever expanding miles of bike trails is great fun, or just walking along its banks to feel a cool breeze on a hot Summer day is a pleasure we can now all enjoy. Much of it made possible by other volunteers over the years! Now the opportunity to do a little bit is yours for the taking over the next three weekends. It feels good, trust me!
And (C), when Monday morning around the water cooler comes around and you are asked what you did this weekend, you get to say: “Oh, I was at La Gran Limpieza” at which point you wink and smile knowingly as you walk off.
Hope to see you down there! More info here
One of my favorite places to photograph is the Sepulveda Basin and more specifically the Sepulveda Dam located at the Basin’s Eastern end. I will be leading my semiannual LA River Photo Adventure this coming Saturday and the dam is always one of the most popular stops of the tour.
The dam is an imposing structure especially when standing in the flat-concreted section below it. Graffiti periodically lines the walls and a mélange of discarded stuff ranging from broken bottles to rocks and on rare occasions, sacrificed bird carcasses is scattered about.
Sometimes Cliff Swallows make their mud nests just under the top of the dam and hundreds of excited and expectant parents can be seen diving and manically looping around and above the dam.
It is also a favorite for filming, credits include: Sabotage, Buckaroo Banzai, Iron Man 2, The Fast and the Furious, The Italian Job, Gattaca, 24, CHiPs, Alias, Bones, Six Millions Dollar Man, Knight Rider and most memorably Escape from New York, when Snake Plissken is almost killed at the end of the film. And the most obscure, a They Might Be Giants music video for “The Statue Got Me High”
The dam was built in 1941 for flood control after the historic floods of 1938 which killed 144 people.
Our tour is this Saturday, October 25 at 8AM. We have a good crowd already signed up, but if you want more info or would like to join us, just go to the Los Angeles Center of Photography website.
I am a history geek and anytime I can shoot something that opens up a little window of the past for me is an exciting opportunity. Loving to shoot the LA River as I do, as well as water issues in general in and around the Los Angeles area, when I read about the discovery that a 100 foot section of the Zanja Madre had been discovered at a construction site in Chinatown, I knew I had to get myself down to the site and get some shots. The Zanja Madre or Mother Ditch, is a remnant of the 90 mile network of channels that first brought water to the early inhabitants of Los Angeles. Originally built in 1781 it was enclosed in 1877 and eventually abandoned in 1904.
I first made a few attempts to contact the local City Council member, Gil Cedillo. He had ingrained himself into the situation as only a politician can, and I thought he might provide some opportunity for me to get in. A vague maybe from his media person turned into nothing, so I found myself driving down to the site on Friday morning hoping to talk myself onto the site, my back up plan would be to try to shoot it from the Metro Gold line station that overlooked it. As luck would have it, I simply walked into the contractor’s office, showed them my press credentials and was promptly handed a hard hat, an orange vest and a waiver to sign. The day was looking up.
There was only a cameraman from KCET shooing as I slid down the beveled sand embankment to the brick cylindrical brick pipe that lay at the bottom of the unearthed dig. Workers were in the process of cleaning out the pipe of its 110 year old accumulation of sludge and sand. Included in that mix was an assortment of old glass bottles, mostly in fragments, but at least one still whole. The plan was to remove about a 42 foot section of the pipe and transport it to the nearby Metabolic Studio for safekeeping. One end of that section had already detached from the rest of it, but the other end had to be sawed off in order for its removal to be possible.
I got there just as the sawing was finished and the last of the old sludge was removed and so was one of the first to be able to look down and see the cleared interior of the pipe in over a hundred years. Obviously an empty pipe is not the most exciting site in the world, but other than being able to play peek-a-boo with the KCET cameraman at the other end, it was a real thrill to see a true piece of history restored to its original state.
Here comes the bad part. The next day a crane came by to remove the Zanja, the plan was to place a series of hammocks under the pipe and lift it to a waiting flat bed truck. Various groups including FoLAR, thought the idea of trying to lift a 200 year old brick pipe might not be such a great idea as the only thing really holding it together was 200 year old cement and mortar. But in spite of the warnings, the plan went forward.
Saturday morning the truck arrived, the hammocks were placed under the pipe and it was lifted onto the truck, so far so good. But the support on the truck was not good enough and around 2pm the pipe caved in on itself and fell into pieces.
The current plan is to try to piece it together brick by brick and restore it to its original shape, but its original condition is lost. The history of water in LA is the history of LA itself, and the Zanja Madre was truly the Mother that fed the city. William Mulholland’s first job with the LA Water department was tending the Zanjas as a Deputy Zanjero (water distributor) before going on to become the leading force in bringing water to Los Angeles. I will post updates as to what happens to the Zanja Madre and any plans for the remaining portions of it left on the construction site. An exciting moment for me, a real disappointment for history!
I have been photographing the LA River for about 6 years now and never in that time have I gone to see where it begins. That would be in Canoga Park where two channelized streams converge, Bell Creek from Simi Hills in the West and Arroyo Calabasas from the Santa Monica Mountains in the South. Their meeting forms a short flatiron shape with Canoga Park High School sitting atop it and laying back to the West.
I finally paid my visit there a couple of weeks ago and stood on a short bridge looking down on the confluence of the two channels. The day I was there the wind was howling down the channels, blowing leaves and grit all over and ripping off palm fronds from the trees and scattering them out on the streets.
Most of the shooting I do of the river is at the soft-bottomed spots along the Glendale Narrows, which is full of vegetation, and the wide channel under the bridges near downtown. It is s strange feeling to see the humble beginnings of the river here in this strange little area, completely concreted over.
Behind me a bull dozer was pushing some dirt around to be used for some final landscaping for the entrance to the LA River Bikeway, a project which when finished looks like it will span the entire 51 mile distance from here at Canoga Park to the river’s mouth in Long Beach. I’ll have to come back with my bike when it does.
I was walking on the Sixth Street Bridge the other day to go shoot some pictures when I stumbled upon this tent with a homeless person living in it. I have seen many homeless living down in the riverbed, some under the bridge and others tucked away in the flood channel alcoves just above the river. They have bikes and protective tarps and even laundry hanging outside their abodes. They are semi-permanent homes for these people. The feel somewhat safe down there and the cops and other patrols generally leave them be. But I have never seen anyone living on top of the bridge before, right over the LA River, right there in the shadow of the downtown skyline.
This guy isn’t hiding or even pretending to be subtle about living out in the middle of this public space, he has pitched his tent right out in the open where thousands of cars pass by daily on route between downtown and East LA. Many police cars and other official city vehicles also regularly drive by and there he is, quite the juxtaposition with the downtown skyscrapers and bank buildings. Kind of a remarkable photo to me!
I was going to write a longer post about my love affair with the historic bridges of downtown LA, but I decided to hold off until another time to bend your ear about their history and design. I really just wanted to post a photo I took a few years ago and recently updated, of my favorite bridge, the 6th Street Bridge.
All the downtown bridges evoke another time in this city, a time when the bridges were a central part of it and downtown was a vital centerpiece of life here. Things seem to be moving in that direction again, but that gritty and moody urban landscape, the city that served as a background for so many Raymond Chandler stories and film noir movies is long gone and never to return.
I read all those novels and saw all those movies and loved every minute of them. When I took this photo a few years ago, I thought I might have captured a little of that mood – the distant car lights on the dark and deserted bridge might be Philip Marlow or Humphrey Bogart driving their ‘36 De Soto across the bridge in the middle of the night on the trail of a hot lead.
That’s the way I see it in my world, but I’m a sucker for this stuff, what can I say!
I have recently started updating some older photos that I have taken, giving them a face-lift of sorts and seeing what I night have left out the first time. The shot below of the river flowing through the City of Vernon is one I just finished. Sometimes when I live with a photo for a while I start to see things I didn’t initially see when I first took the photo. I hope you like it.
I photographed in Vernon for a while as a personal project a few years ago. It is a strange place, as you might imagine from a city that boasts as its slogan: “Vernon – Exclusively Industrial.” Evenings and weekends the town is deserted and lends itself very nicely to moody, atmospheric industrial shots: old rail yards, water towers and other cool places.
That work has gotten a fair amount of attention, probably because no one else has ever taken many photos down there. Recently the French town of Vernon had a festival and celebrated by having a photo show and exhibit (including my work) of other towns around the world named Vernon. The Vernon Chamber of Commerce’s new directory will feature four of my images, including this one, on its cover.
You can see some of the previous work I did and what I wrote in a post on my Citizen of the Planet site – http://tinyurl.com/myltjea
I’ve been exploring parts of the river a little further south than I have in the past and recently had the chance to shoot an old railroad trestle bridge down in South Gate. It is a wonderful looking bridge that is covered with graffiti and rust and cuts a diagonal swath across the river and bike path. On the east side is an old trailer park with manicured lawns and residents who look like they have been there a long time and like it.
The other side is more industrial and aside from an occasional cyclist or jogger, is pretty deserted. I was shooting there at sunset, something I have done at many locations over the years, but this place felt a little more sketchy than usual. I didn’t feel any better when I heard several gunshots coming from up the river a bit, right between the bridge where I was shooting and where my car was parked. Visions of my lifeless body splayed along the riverbank, a tangled mess of cameras and straps filled my mind as I wondered what to do.
I have to admit my heart was racing quite a bit as after what I hoped was a prudent period of time, I slowly crept back along the bike path to my waiting Prius, a great little car, but quite the sore thumb when it comes to empty industrial areas. All was well and I lived to shoot another day.
The last few posts had several images from the soft-bottomed stretch of the river along the Glendale Narrows, so I thought I would go for major concrete this week. The first image was taken during last April’s LA River Photo Adventure tour from the Cesar Chavez Avenue Bridge. It overlooks an old auto scrap yard that never seems to change and makes a nice foreground to the river and mountains.
The second image was taken in 2008 from under the 6th Street Bridge just at the entrance to the ramp the film crews use to access the river. Back then the downtown portion of the river was lined with Graffiti and seemingly covered every inch of the river’s banks. It has since been painted over. Just a couple of weeks ago one of the graffiti artists saw this photo and contacted me to see if I had taken a photo of his work which was just a bit to the right of where this photo was taken, but unfortunately I had not and his work is apparently lost for the ages.