LAST WEEK, I was in the last stretch of finishing up an essay about Los Angeles—what it looks, feels, sounds like and the histories we all on. All this, just as we received the order from the state of California and the city and county of Los Angeles to stay at home. Not a lock down, but to limit our movements around the city due to the novel coronavirus.
During a teleconference with my editor, we sorted out a way to include this new and unprecedented chapter in the story of the city. Last weekend, on the way to do morning groceries, I wound through my old neighborhood to see what an emptied-out L.A. was beginning to look like.
These photos illustrate this.
It was heartening to see how quickly people acted and yet heartbreaking to see the city stilled in such a dramatic way..
You can read my essay up at High County News here.
MY LATEST, now up online at Preservation magazine, explores the deep history of the Wilfandel Club in the Los Angeles’s West Adams district.
The club, for more than seven decades, has been a integral meeting-spot in Los Angeles for many generations of African American Angelenos. As West Adams undergoes the same shifts in gentrification as some of the older, established yet “under-the-radar” neighborhoods in L.A, the Wilfandel women are gearing up to ready to protect what was hard won.
The Wilfandel Clubhouse is a Mediterranean Revival house was built in 1912 via Preservation
From the piece:
Founded in 1945 by Della Williams and Fannie Williams (the two were not related), the Wilfandel Club House offered a singular experience: an elegant gathering place for black Angelenos to meet or celebrate in style. The National Trust for Historic Preservation recently awarded the club a $75,000 grant through its African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (AACHAF) to assist the women of the Wilfandel with essential infrastructure upkeep. Preserving this property is a way to honor all that’s come before—that struggle to acquire and protect one’s place in an ever-evolving Los Angeles.
A LITTLE over a week ago, I received word that a collaborator, confidant and friend Carolyn Kozo Cole had passed away. Carolyn was the head of the Los Angeles Public Library’s photo collection for nearly 20 years and through her creativity, focus and imagination she was able to help us all see Los Angeles in a more complete and inclusive way.
from LAPL’S Shades of L.A. Collection
I met Carolyn in the early 90s when I arrived at one of the branch libraries in South Los Angeles do a story for L.A. Style magazine on the then-nascent photo collection project, “Shades of L.A.” “Shades” was Carolyn’s brainchild: Her plan set-in-motion was to collect snapshots from diverse family albums from across the Southland to fill in the library’s holdings. This she knew would mean an active search for images that would tell us a deeper and more complex story about the region — photos beyond ribbon cuttings, and landmark buildings and new parkways.
The photo below, of a garden wedding in Watts has stayed with me for decades now. It is from the book, Shades of L.A. a brief compendium that samples some of the project’s key finds. This photo is meaningful because in certain ways it was the very absence of quotidian images like this that sent Carolyn on her journey. “What did Watts look like before the uprisings of 1965? The houses, the streets, the businesses?” “How and where did people celebrate milestone moments in their lives?” she wondered. The library didn’t have anything beyond a photo of the old railroad depot. Surely there was more. Those, she realized, would be part of family collections. They would be the photographs that chronicled the everyday.
I wrote an appreciation about Carolyn that will appear in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times you can read it here online.
I miss her emailed anecdotes and her phone calls and her little stack of special finds just for me. But every time I happen upon a photo like the one above from the online Shades archive, I know that she has truly given us so much that we will be using to understand Los Angeles and tell better stories about it for generations to come.
A FEW months back, I had the pleasure to sit down for a few hours with San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck for a wide-ranging conversation facilitated by Denise Sullivan for Boom: A Journal of California. You can find it here.
Wandering North Beach: My Home Away From Home
For two cities that are so very different on the surface, we found we had similar experiences growing up in our respective home towns. I have lived both places and have watched both cities shift around me. Each one has left its mark in ways that are measurable and indelible.
On Saturday night – July 7 – I’ll be in conversation with Kevin McCollister (@eastofwestla), discussing his work documenting Los Angeles. We’ll be at HELMS BAKERY. 8800 Venice Boulevard (entrance on Washington Blvd.) 7:30pm. Please join us.
BOOK FESTIVAL time is upon us. I will be at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books next weekend signing “After/Image: Los Angeles Outside the Frame.”
Both days, I will be at the Angel City Press booth (#119 near Tommy Trojan). You can find me on Saturday from 12pm to 2pm and on Sunday from 2pm to 4pm. Please come by and say hello.
On Sunday afternoon 4/22, from 12:30pm to 1pm, I will be in conversation with Karen Tei Yamashita and Geoff Dyer on the topic of “Photography & Narrative” moderated by David L. Ulin. It’s free, but to reserve your tickets click here.