This is the story of The Los Angeles Series

WHO

 

I’M ASHLEY NOELLE, A SELF-TAUGHT AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER AND DIRECTOR.

1980

1995

I WAS BORN AND RAISED ON THE EAST COAST, BUT I GREW UP IN LOS ANGELES. I MOVED TO L.A. IN 1994 WITH MY DRUMMER BOYFRIEND AND ONLY A FEW MONTHS AFTER THE

NORTHRIDGE EARTHQUAKE. I REMEMBER DRIVING INTO THE CITY FOR THE FIRST TIME. THE GOLDEN GLOW OF THE STREET LIGHTS SEEMED TO DANCE AS THEY ROSE AND FELL WITH THE GENTLE HILLS THAT I COULD NOT SEE IN THE DARK. WE DROVE THROUGH UNFAMILIAR STREETS AND FINALLY STOPPED ON FAIRFAX ACROSS FROM CANTERS DELI. I REMEMBER THIS VERY WELL BECAUSE AS I WENT TO STEP OUT OF THE CAR I PAUSED. JUST ONE SHOE ON THE SIDEWALK AND I LITERALLY FELT SOMETHING. THAT WAS OUR FIRST CONTACT. I WAS QUICKLY PULLED INTO A COFFEE HOUSE WHERE ANDY DICK TOLD ME 100 TIMES THAT HE JUST MADE AN AMERICAN EXPRESS COMMERCIAL AND HE WAS SUPER FAMOUS. MY FIRST APARTMENT WAS A STUDIO ON MELROSE AVENUE RIGHT AT LARCHMONT. IN THE MID 90’S THAT PART OF HOLLYWOOD WAS ROUGH. I DID NOT KNOW ANY DIFFERENT. I THOUGHT ALL LANDLORDS WALKED AROUND CARRYING CHICKENS AND A .45. I TOOK MY FIRST BUS RIDE FROM THE CORNER OF MELROSE AND VINE. I WAS MUGGED GETTING ON THE BUS AND HIT BY A CAR WHEN I GOT OFF. I MARRIED A MUSICIAN AND LIVED IN A MAGICAL HOUSE IN LAUREL CANYON.

I GOT DIVORCED, RAISED MY DAUGHTERS AND BECAME AN ARTIST.

WHAT

 

THE LOS ANGELES SERIES. HOW DID I COME UP WITH THIS? WELL, IT WAS NOT AN IDEA I HAD. IT WAS SOMETHING THAT JUST CAME TO BE. THIS IS KIND OF AN EXAMPLE OF HOW EXPERIENCES CAN SEEM RANDOM, BUT THEY ARE OFTEN PREPARING YOU FOR WHAT YOU NEED TO SEE - AND ULTIMATELY DO. 

WHY

IN 2005, A FRIEND CALLED HARRY CHANDLER TOOK ME TO A GALLERY IN BERGAMOT STATION WHERE I MET JULIUS SHULMAN. I MENTION HARRY BECAUSE HIS FAMILY IS A MASSIVE PART OF THE HISTORY OF LOS ANGELES. THE L.A. TIMES AND THE DOROTHY CHANDLER PAVILION ARE JUST A FEW OF THEIR EFFORTS TOWARDS THE CITY. I HAD NO IDEA WHO JULIUS WAS WHEN HE WAVED ME OVER AND INTRODUCED HIMSELF. HE WAS QUICK WITTED AND FUNNY. HE TORE A PIECE OF PAPER AND GAVE ME HIS PHONE NUMBER, ADDRESS, AND BIRTHDATE - 10 10 10.

SOMETHING HE WAS VERY PROUD OF. IT TOOK A FEW MONTHS,

BUT ONE DAY I CALLED HIM AND WE BECAME FAST FRIENDS.

JULIUS SHULMAN AND ASHLEY NOELLEng

2008

AROUND THE SAME TIME I MET A MAN CALLED MOHAMED HADID. MOHAMED IS A FEARLESS BUILDER AND, IN MY OPINION, A REAL ARTIST OF SPACE. MOHAMED OPENED HIS HOME TO ME TO PHOTOGRAPH, A BIG OPPORTUNITY BECAUSE THE HOUSE WAS NO ORDINARY HOME.

IT WAS THE PROPERTY THAT WOULD BE FEATURED ON NATIONAL TV SHOWS AND IN GLOBAL PUBLICATIONS. WHEN I WAS THERE IT WAS JUST MOHAMED’S HOUSE. OF COURSE, I TURNED TO JULIUS FOR HELP AND HE INTRODUCED ME TO THE VIEW CAMERA - AND ALL OF HIS OPINIONS ON BUILDING, LOS ANGELES, AND PHOTOGRAPHY. I HAD BEEN A MODEL AND THEN BECAME A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHIC PRINTER FOR THE BEST PHOTOGRAPHERS IN THE WORLD. I HAD SOME EXPERIENCE WITH PHOTOGRAPHY, BUT NOTHING INVOLVING ARCHITECTURE OR REALLY ADVANCED CAMERAS. I WAS BRAVE AND BOUGHT MY BELOVED VIEW CAMERA, HENRY.

HENRY AND ASHLEY NOELLE

HENRY IS A MODERN VIEW CAMERA AND I CAN USE A DIGITAL CAPTURE ON THE BACK. THE DIGITAL IS WHY JULIUS NEVER SAW MY CAMERA. HE WAS NOT INTERESTED IN DIGITAL AT ALL. AND HE SAW ZERO POTENTIAL IN MY WORK OUTSIDE OF FASHION. HE LOVED MY PORTRAIT WORK AND EVEN KEPT MY PORTFOLIO IN HIS STUDIO FOR MONTHS TO SHOW PEOPLE.

AFTER MOHAMED’S HOUSE TAUGHT ME HOW TO USE HENRY

MOHAMED OFFERED FOR ME TO ASSIST HIM ON BUILDING SITES.

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How I learned to use Henry

Hadid Residence. Bel Air, California

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Construction sites from Malibu to Beverly Hills

2005 - 2014

ALL OF THIS WAS MASSIVE LEARNING FOR ME. FOR ABOUT 3 YEARS MY LIFE WAS A BUILDING SITE IN THE MORNING AND AFTERNOONS WITH JULIUS. JULIUS WAS NO BS, BLUNT, AND SERIOUS ABOUT ARCHITECTURE, HISTORY, AND THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES. I STILL HEAR HIM CORRECTING ME, MAKING ME LOOK FURTHER, OR RAISING HIS CANE TO MAKE THE POINT CLEAR. HE LOVED EATING BACON AND WANTED PEOPLE TO BE ORIGINAL, NOT DIFFERENT.

I NO LONGER JUST DROVE AROUND LOS ANGELES BLINDLY,

I UNDERSTOOD WHAT I WAS LOOKING AT.

I WAS EDUCATED. 

JULIUS SHULMAN AND ASHLEY NOELLE

WHEN

IN 2014 I HAD BEEN BUILDING A BUSINESS IN VENICE FOR A WHILE AND I REALLY NEEDED TO BE CREATIVE. I LOVE DOING PORTRAITS OF PEOPLE, BUT PEOPLE REQUIRE A TEAM AND PRODUCTION. I DID NOT HAVE TIME FOR THAT AND I DID NOT WANT TO RELY ON OTHERS TO MAKE WORK. I THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT I LOVED AND THAT WAS MY CAMERA AND LOS ANGELES.

I MADE MY FIRST ATTEMPTS AT PHOTOGRAPHING IN PUBLIC. HENRY IS NOT SMALL SO WHEN I GO OUT IT'S A BIT OF A LOOK. I WAS VERY NERVOUS AND HAD NO IDEA WHAT I WAS DOING.

I FIRST PHOTOGRAPHED A BOXING PLACE ON SANTA MONICA BLVD. IT WAS COOL LOOKING AND I KNEW IT WOULD NOT BE THERE FOR LONG. THE COMPOSITION WAS SO BAD.

I WAS USING THE WRONG LENS AND THE LIGHT WAS JUST AWFUL. BUT I KEPT GOING OUT.

I PHOTOGRAPHED THE HOLLYWOOD STARS PAINTED ON SECURITY GATES ON HOLLYWOOD BLVD. I WAS GETTING CLOSER BUT IT WAS STILL NOTHING MORE THAN INDIVIDUAL PHOTOGRAPHS OF PLACES. IN 2016 SOMETHING CLICKED. I HAD SEVERAL LOCATIONS UP ON MY COMPUTER SCREEN AND I FINALLY SAW IT. THE CONSISTENT COMPOSITION REMOVED ME FROM THE WORK AND THE RIGHT LIGHT ALLOWED THE BUILDINGS TO BE SEEN -

AND THE LOS ANGELES SERIES BEGAN. 

HOW

ONCE I UNDERSTOOD WHAT I WAS DOING I GOT A BIT MORE ORGANIZED.

I STARTED WRITING DOWN PLACES I WOULD SEE WHILE JUST DRIVING AROUND THE CITY. NOTES BECAME LISTS. LISTS BECAME PRESSURE TO DO WORK. I WAIT FOR CERTAIN CONDITIONS TO PHOTOGRAPH FOR THIS SERIES - CLOUDY, QUIET MORNINGS ARE IDEAL. THE EVEN, WHITE LIGHT OF CLOUDS CREATES A NATURAL STUDIO FOR EACH LOCATION.

CLOUDS ARE RARE IN L.A. SO I MAKE THE MOST OF ANY DAYS I GET. I GENERALLY LEAVE BEFORE SUNRISE, GETTING TO THE FIRST LOCATION JUST AS THE SKY BEGINS TO LIGHTEN. THE FIRST LOCATION ALWAYS GETS ME SET UP FOR THE DAY, OR HOWEVER LONG I HAVE TO WORK. AFTER THAT, I DRIVE AIMLESSLY. EXPLORING THE CITY ONE RANDOM LEFT AT A TIME.

I ALSO USE GOOGLE MAP SEARCHES AND FACEBOOK POSTS TO FIND LOCATIONS.

IN 2017 I EVEN BECAME AN UBER DRIVER FOR A FEW MONTHS. THIS WAS SERIOUSLY THE GREATEST IDEA EVER. DRIVING AROUND DOING WHATEVER I WANT IS FUN, BUT ALSO LIMITING.

HAVING OTHER PEOPLE PICK WHERE I WOULD GO AND SHOWING ME THEIR LOS ANGELES WAS INCREDIBLY EYE OPENING. THERE WERE A FEW DAYS THAT LOS ANGELES REALLY SHOWED HERSELF TO ME. I REMEMBER ONE AFTERNOON I HAD SEEN SO MUCH AND I PULLED

OVER TO JUST TAKE IT ALL IN. AS I WATCHED THE CITY SWIRL AROUND ME

I FELT THE SAME WAY I DID WHEN I FIRST CAME TO LOS ANGELES.

I KNOW IT SOUNDS CHEESY, BUT IT WAS LIKE THE CITY WAS SAYING THANK YOU.

ASHLEY NOELLE LISTS

THOSE FEW MONTHS MADE ME EVEN BOLDER AS I CONTINUED TO EXPLORE AND DISCOVER DIFFERENT PARTS OF THE CITY. I CAN START THE DAY IN SANTA MONICA AND TRAVEL TO EAST L.A., VAN NUYS, EL SEGUNDO AND BACK TO SANTA MONICA FOR ANOTHER LOOK AT A LOCATION I COULD NOT GET EARLIER - MAINLY DUE TO A CAR OR TRUCK. YES, THERE IS AN ABSENCES OF PEOPLE AND CARS IN THE SERIES. NOT COMPLETELY, BUT I TRY TO MAKE THIS ABOUT THE BUILDINGS. THERE ARE GREAT JOURNALISTIC PHOTOGRAPHERS DOCUMENTING THE PEOPLE AND TIMES IN THE CITY. WHAT I'M INTERESTED IN ARE THE SILENT AND STILL CHARACTERS. HOW IS A BUILDING A CHARACTER? STYLE. SHAPE. COLOR. WHAT THE BUILDING IS USED FOR. HOW IT'S AGED. ALL THOSE THINGS PLAY INTO MY ATTRACTION IN ONE WAY OR ANOTHER. I WILL BE DRIVING AROUND AND A PLACE WILL JUST STAND OUT TO ME. I MIGHT CIRCLE IT A FEW TIMES TO SEE IF I CAN GET A GOOD COMPOSITION. SOMETIMES THERE IS NOT ENOUGH SPACE OR IT'S JUST NOT RIGHT. IF IT IS RIGHT, I ONLY NEED A FEW MINUTES TO SET UP, BRACKET ABOUT 6 FRAMES AND FILM FOR ATLEAST 15 SECONDS AND THEN I'M GONE. SPEED HELPS IN SEVERAL WAYS. I NEED TO KEEP MOVING TO GET AS MUCH AS I CAN, BUT ALSO FOR SAFTEY. I HAVE BEEN YELLED AT, CHASED AND ONCE I WAS ACTUALLY ATTACKED BY A HOMELESS PERSON. IT WAS 1PM ON BEVERLY BLVD AND TRULY TERRIFYING, BUT IT HAS NOT STOPPED ME. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE DRIVING AND BEING IN THE CITY. LOS ANGELES IS VERY SPREAD OUT WITH LONG BOULEVARDS OF DREAMS, AND I WANT TO SEE IT ALL. 

NOW

THIS STARTED OUT SELFISHLY. I WANTED TO PHOTOGRAPH, THAT'S IT. I HAD NO IDEAS ABOUT WHAT I WAS DOING IN A BIGGER PICTURE WAY. I JUST LOVED BEING ALONE OUT IN THE CITY.

I NOTICED THE FENCES EARLY ON. I SAW HOW SOMETHING WAS THERE ONE DAY AND SURROUNDED OR TOTALLY GONE THE NEXT. SOME PLACES ACTUALLY HURT TO SEE GO.

THE ONES I DID NOT 'GET' ARE MOTIVATION WHEN I WANT TO BE LAZY. I HAD A REAL

LOVE-HATE WITH CONSTRUCTION SITES. MOHAMED'S BUILD SITES SHOWED ME HOW FULL OF OPPORTUNITIES NEW PROPERTIES CAN BE. I GOT TO KNOW TRADES WORKERS AND SEEING STRUCTURES TAKE FORM WAS REALLY COOL. HOWEVER, TO BE IN THE CITY OF ANGELS AND SEE FIRSTHAND THE NUMBERS OF HOMELESS IN THE STREETS AND AN OUT OF REACH RENTAL/BUYING MARKET - I REALLY WONDERED ABOUT WHAT WAS ACTUALLY BEING BUILT.

I CAME ACROSS AN L.A. TIMES ARTICLE FROM 2008 WHERE THE THEN MAYOR SAYS HE WAS OPENING THE CITY TO DEVELOPERS IN ORDER TO CREATE MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING.

THAT DID NOT HAPPEN. WHAT HAS HAPPENED IS A LOSS OF CLASSIC LOS ANGELES STYLE. BUNGLOWS, DUPLEXES, AND SMALLER, LOWRISE MULTI-UNIT BUILDINGS HAVE BEEN REPLACED BY MASSIVE HOUSING COMPLEXES WITH UNDERGROUND PARKING AND LUXURY RENTAL RATES. ANYONE WANT TO STAY ON SUNSET BLVD? GO FOR IT. THERE ARE A MILLION HOTELS. FEW PLACES OF HISTORY, BUT PLEASE STAY HERE. AND THE VACANT BUILDINGS. JUST DRIVE AROUND AT NIGHT AND LOOK FOR THE HIGH RISE BUILDINGS WITH ZERO LIGHTS ON. ODDS ARE GOOD THAT'S A DEVELOPER FROM SOMEWHERE ELSE. THEY TEAR DOWN AND BUILD UP AND THEN THEY JUST TALK ABOUT THE SPACE THEY HAVE AND WILL TRY TO SELL ONE DAY. THAT'S A BIG THING IN LOS ANGELES. IF YOU HAVE THE MONEY YOU DON'T NEED TO LIVE HERE

OR HAVE ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE SOCIAL OR SOCIETAL IMPACT YOU ARE HAVING,

AND THAT WAS MY JULIUS' BIGGEST ISSUE. HE TOLD ME THIS OVER AND OVER. THERE WAS A TIME WHEN SOCIETY WAS CONSIDERED BY BOTH DEVELOPERS AND THE CITY.

HEARING PEOPLE, RIGHTLY, CALL OUT LOS ANGELES FOR THE HOMELESSNESS AND HOUSING ISSUES IS FRUSTRATING. DECISIONS ARE BEING MADE BY QUICK MONEY AND NOT BY

A REAL UNDERSTANDING OF THE VALUE OF LOS ANGELES.

IT'S HARD TO WATCH WHAT IS HAPPENING. 

L.A. TIMES 2008

THEN 2020 AND A GLOBAL PANDEMIC.

THE MAJORITY OF THIS SERIES ARE SMALL BUSINESSES. BEING HONEST, IN THE VERY BEGINNING OF THE LOCKDOWN IN LOS ANGELES THERE WAS A WEEK OF CLOUDS.

I WAS LIVING A DREAM. NO CARS. FULLY EXPOSED LOCATIONS. I DID OVER 400 LOCATIONS IN THOSE 5 DAYS - AN AVERAGE GOOD DAY I WOULD PHOTOGRAPH MAYBE 15 LOCATIONS. THINGS WERE SO UNKNOWN THAT SUMMER. COLLECTIVELY WE ALL TOOK ON A DIFFERENT BUT THE SAME LIFESTYLE. WE WATCHED. THEN THE RIOTS. LOS ANGELES WAS BEING ATTACKED. BOARDS WENT UP, SIRENS SOUNDED AND PEOPLE MARCHED AND SHOUTED. MORE UNKNOWN. POLITICAL UNCERTAINTY. AND WE WATCHED.

LOS ANGELES RIOTS 2020

IN THE FALL OF 2020 THINGS BECAME CLEARER. SMALL BUSINESSES THAT HELD ON AGAINST DEVELOPERS AND LANDLORD'S INSANE RENT INCREASES COULD NOT TAKE THE WEIGHT OF LOCKDOWN ALONE. THE CLOSURES STARTED. LOCATIONS THAT HAD BEEN AROUND FOR 80+ YEARS COULD NOT HOLD ON. SHOPS THAT HAD NEWLY OPENED COULD NOT HOLD ON.

LOS ANGELES IS MADE UP OF LOTS OF SMALL COMMUNITIES. 4 BLOCKS CAN BE AN ENTIRE WORLD FOR SOME. THAT MAKES SMALL BUSINESSES IN THOSE COMMUNITIES CRUCIAL. CORNER MARKETS, REPAIR SHOPS, BARBERS, LAUNDRIES, BAKERIES - THESE PLACES CREATE A COMMUNITY AND THEY ARE GOING, FAST. WITH THEM ALSO GOES THE HISTORY OF THOSE NEIGHBORHOODS. I KNOW A CORNER MARKET IS NOT THE EIFFEL TOWER,

BUT IT CAN STILL BE COOL.

IT DOES HAVE VALUE FOR A CITY. 

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IN 2021 I REACHED OVER 1,500 LOCATIONS IN THIS SERIES. I HAVE NO PLANS TO STOP.

EVERY DAY I SEE LOCATIONS THAT INTERREG ME, MAKE ME WONDER.

OVER THE YEARS I HAVE DONE THIS WORK I'VE COME TO UNDERSTAND

A FEW THINGS ABOUT THIS CITY.

LOS ANGELES CAN HANDLE CENTER STAGE AS WELL AS THE BACK ALLEYS OF LIFE.

SHE CAN GIVE YOU YOUR DREAMS OR MAKE YOU RUN FOR THE HILLS. 

WHAT SHE CAN'T DO IS STOP YOU FROM TEARING HER DOWN.

SHE CAN'T MAKE YOU VALUE HER, YOU HAVE TO SEE IT FOR YOURSELF.

THE LOS ANGELES SERIES CREATES PORTRAITS OF A CITY.

FOR ME PERSONALLY, THIS IS MY LOVE LETTER TO LOS ANGELES.

WHETHER YOU'RE AN ANGELENO OR A DISTANT FAN

I HOPE THIS WORK GIVES PEOPLE

A UNIQUE VIEW AND TRUE APPRECIATION FOR

THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES.  

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