Just below street level lies the Los Angeles River, where the spoils of the metropolis spill into and around the river’s arterial path; where wildlife flourishes and perishes; where the city’s trash mingles with the river, trash that is either picked up by volunteers annually or reused by transients daily; where literature is as important as other addictions; where people hang out for the day or stay for the long nights in makeshift dwellings erected in precarious storm drains; where the city of dreams turns into an austere landscape, yet somehow maintains a haunting beauty.
Contrary to popular belief, the River is not man-made. In fact, it used to be life source for the local indigenous peoples of the Tongva-Gabrielino tribe.
Friends of the Los Angeles River (FOLAR) organizes an annual cleanup, where brave volunteers venture into the water to pick up trash that accumulated over the last twelve months.
I was commissioned by FOLAR to document the 2017 cleanup.
Trash and river water coalesce to form a rich textural, yet dystopian landscape.
Posing By River Trash
Two sashed beauty queens posing by trash picked up and stacked by other volunteers.
Michael From NoLa 1
The River is in a state of flux, between the burgeoning homeless population, groups such as FOLAR and Tribal councils, who want to open it to the public for recreation, and the Army Corp of Engineers, who want to preserve its plant and wildlife, and maintain public safety.
These were found a few feet away from one another on the bank of the River.
The high Schoolers
A Group of kids on New Years Day, taking portraits with the River as backdrop.
A storm drain being used as a makeshift home.
A homeless woman named Mishka collects bike parts that she finds along the river.
She lives in one of the River's sealed storm drains.
According to the Army Corp of Engineers (which encased the River in concrete after the great flood of 1938), they are the only entity legally allowed in the River. They are also the only entity that can determine the future of the River.
Michael from NoLa 2
He told me that when the river floods, it brings back New Orleans nightmares.
Michael's Dwelling 2
Each season, Michael changes his home. This is his summer home.
Documenting the river has given rise to the uncomfortable feeling that it is somehow showing us a future that we would rather not see.
Digital Cage (on going)
Digital Cage explore how digital language coupled with mass surveillance are shaping the way we are redefining ourselves, resulting in a creation of a techno-personality.
Combining hand-sculpted and computer-generated elements to map biometric points on the subject’s face, mimicking facial recognition software, each portrait re-presents an individual's techno-personality, and reveals their susceptibility to and culpability in their own surveillance.
Each session is a collaboration with the subject. We begin with a conversation about the issue, followed by the subject jotting down on paper any thoughts they may have. Their cage is then constructed based on the conversation, the write-up, and their choices of colors. The session ends with their portrait being taken.
"Cross referencing archetypes via pigments and facial structures."
Jian's Digital Cage
"The possibility for advertisers to monitor my reaction to content in order to maximize consumption is really scary and perverse."
Tim's Digital Cage
We Are Not Separate From The Air
At the site of accidental deaths, this visual poem explores the beauty found in the most tragic of things, as these semi-permanent displays of public art-meets-funerary-rites turn public spaces into temporary shrines. These shrines are both disrupters, insisting that we reflect on their implication, as well as a welcoming respite from the mundanity of daily life, providing us with unexpected beauty.
RIP Anonymous, San Fernando Road, North Valley
RIP unknown, Open Space, Hollywood Hills
RIP David Granados, Oxnard Blvd., Van Nuys
RIP family, Central Blvd., Glendale
RIP Willie Toy, Hollywood Blvd.
RIP Drake, across the street from Forest Lawn Cemetery, Griffith Park
please tell Irv
In an effort to cope with the eventuality of death, I used my camera to document the events of a too-short weekend in San Francisco, knowing that this was be the last time I saw a very close family friend.
Less than a month after this visit, the much beloved Irv Spivak passed away. He was in bed, surrounded by friends.
Something major happened here, on the 5 south, as we headed in the opposite direction to see Irv, knowing that this may be the very last time we see him.
The ubiquitous summer fog, dwarfing the city, welcomed us in.
Irv's place on the 18th floor of Fox Plaza, San Francisco.
Irving David Spivak
In a birthday note addressed to all of his friends around the world, Irv wrote. “If I were to die today … I’d die the happiest man ever to have lived and loved for knowing you."
What we've seen through his telescope deserves at the very least xxx rating.
As much as we craved to see the city, we spent all of our time inside with Irv, watching Lewis Black comedy specials, laughing our asses off, as was the usual vibe when visiting Irv.
The medicinal herb was, arguably, Irv's oldest friend.
Strange Fruit is a mixed media visualization of the haunting poem written by Abel Meeropol (later performed by Billie Holiday), with particular emphasis on the least regarded lynched population, the black woman. The scene is lined with the names of lynched black women found in obscure southern state's records.
Materials: Felt, paper, glue, wood, cloth, cardboard, metal wire