the irony and the ecstasy

by urquiza!
Posts Tagged ‘photography’

gentrification avenue

images are from approximately four months, starting in the spring of 2015 as highland park sleeps through the impending upheaval. its business as usual. analysing the situation in retrospect, it appears the collective consciousness of a group of land owners can see the changes and are starting to visualise the profit potentials in their minds. by early the following year many properties are up for sale. and, by the end of 2015 the landscape will be extraordinarily different.

we start on york boulevard across the street from cafe de leche where the first visible sign of gentrification arrived around 2009. its opening is a major event and can be qualified as revitalisation for sometime. it is the first new retail to open with a complete makeover, cafe de leche’s owners envisioned it as a multi-cultural and multi-racial hub. the aesthetic was decidedly contemporary and had more in common with an industrial upscale swork in eagle rock than a cafe antigua on figueroa. today it is fairly multi-cultural in some respects showing art from avenue 50 studio’s chicano artists, while the racial diversity of its customers is limited to their economic diversity, that is wealthy white and assimilated people of colour.

other businesses such as the restaurant “the wild hare” that displaced the chinese karaoke bar and restaurant may have opened and closed its doors before cafe de leche opened or, clare graham and the mor/york gallery that has been there since the 90s. neither operated traditional hours, so their presence went largely unnoticed. however, in around 2006, mor/york painted their name on the building exterior in a modern sans serif typeface and it was quickly tagged the next day. that low level resistance did not last long when johnny’s bar and the investor driven york opened up. the artist brian malman also contributed fuel to the change by staking claim for the art and creative class by appropriating the empty gas station lot signage. malman, an eagle rock resident replaced the old mobile station’s with his art statement, “form, line, here, art gallery,” in what appeared to be a support of the kristi engle gallery that relocated from downtown. in a coffee driven exercise i performed traffic counts from the corner of cafe de leche. in 2009 it was fair to say you could see an obvious 15-20 people of colour per hour coming and going from the bus stops to retail and the residential. today in 2016 it has become a destination street for consumers from around the city. its traffic is easily 50-60 people per hour mostly from their own vehicles or walking from residential.

figueroa street runs north and south. it is seemingly similar to an outsider’s eye. however, it has a stronger economic base that many of the businesses on york. the architectural scale is grander, the boulevard wider, lot sizes have more square footage and has institutional businesses. york developed as a tributary of figueroa. at one time figueroa had a rail line shuffling materials from eagle rock to los angeles. it is the elder of the two streets with the first church being built here in 1900 and with several other destinations such as the highland theatre, the ebell club, the mason’s lodge and many more local restaurants. york’s historic destination hubs share a similarity with the current spaces. mor/york gallery was formerly an open air style safeway store, while café de leche was a mid-century diner.

the greyhound becomes the epicenter of the figueroa gentrification wave. it displaces a sleepy, but cavernous pupuseria that served 99 cent pupusas and aguas frescas. a self-employed gardener could feed his family for twenty to thirty dollars. in contrast the new greyhound serves $11 draft beers and primarily serves a local and exclusive audience of assimilated latinos and wealthy whites from the hills. its presence was preceded by future studio by many years. however, the home of chicken boy as it is also known had deep community roots and accessible art despite being associated with the creative class that dominated york boulevard. the fitness gym pop physique opens shortly after the greyhound and foreshadows the future of figueroa with a clash of aesthetics and lifestyles.

because the previously mentioned scale and proliferation of figueroa’s “latino urbanism” it has not folded as quickly. highland park developed as a sub-economy of the surrounding wealthy enclaves of pasadena and glendale providing them with a domestic labour force. the gardeners and street vendors are highly visible on the streets and at the panederias and mercados of highland park, but we speculate they are undercounted in statistical data because of their cash economy. the population imported their native value system which is what we are now calling “latino urbanism” as a means to meet its own community needs. food service and entertainment make up 10%, manufacturing another 10%, but the largest workforce in highland park is clearly the health, education and social workers at twenty one percent. all these working class segments are being destabilised by the shifting wealth in the economy. unfortunately, unless they are land owners, they will be locked out of any benefits that will result from this economic shift. the same scenario awaits the core businesses of inexpensive restaurants, clothing stores, pharmacies, hair salons and dollar stores that anchor the vibrant street life. they will come under threat in the following year when values increase even further.

(see image captions for more info)

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macadamia heaven

press tour with the ladies of blogging at the nearly hundred year old hawaiian hosts confectionary. their chocolate covered macadamias are made and shipped all over the world from this los angeles area plant in the city of gardena.


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highland park study no.01

reflections and reactions. bicycles and french restaurants, spanish language health clinics and gentrification. beware this is the frontier of america.





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sin turistas preview

these few images are from the sin turistas workshop project that i organise and instruct. the student works can be found on our facebook page, but these are some of mine that were shot during various sessions.

highland park is an old neighbourhood of los angeles that is rapidly changing. it appears to be facing a similar fate as in brooklyn, new york. the residents in highland park were primarily 70% latino in the mid 2000s. their environment is rapidly being replaced by a hip, young, urban and middle class white environment. while the latino population has fallen a small amount, the white population has exploded leaving latinos at 53% of the population. the changing landscape has raised nieghbourhood’s property values and shifted the business services. these rising values have started to displace the most vulnerable.

this set of images goes back and forth from both groups, just as the arguments go back and forth between economic development versus displacing the existing economies. this topic is a personal project. i grew up in northeast los angeles of which highland park is the northern most area. i have been watching this change since i was a boy from one immigrant group to another.







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lost in space

900,000 photographers out to get this shot, didn’t even bother to try and sell these… i almost sat this one out except for a student that convinced me to go out with them. auto focus failed me for the split second shot with the LA skyline in the background. the money shot ended up being the last one.










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grand puppets

opening ceremonies at the $56 million grand avenue park. sorry no dignitaries or celebrities in this set. puppet masters beth petterson, jamie kim and company provide part of the pageant for the opening ceremonies.













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coco and bvlgari

part one. a few out takes from a retail assignment in beverly hills. i was almost regretting this for the obvious reasons. however, i found rodeo drive far more accessible than some other neighbourhoods on the west side as well as areas in the east. this was not a mono-linguistic environment as many parts of los angeles are typically either english or spanish. i over heard french, chinese, korean, german, tagalog, spanish and portuguese all in the same street, on the same corner block. rodeo with its open top busses of tourist and luxury SUVs everywhere is not the same kind of posh that is ginza nor the champs-élysées. it is certainly unique as it is clichéd. grey haired men in blazers stroll around; slender women in all manner of heeled shoes march down the avenue; and, while young handsome men patrol store fronts opening doors, discouraging shop lifting; while still other young men glide through the street by behind tinted windows. i want to come back here and shoot some more.



















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sweet arroyo nights

editorial assignment, dreaming accessories in los angeles for visionarios magazine, milan.

spring in LA is always complicated. history and the night collide with LA chic. in this accessory story the colour block trend is still going strong, but its LA! and, vintage, earthy and western styles always lurk in the shadows. southern california is not all freeways and shopping malls. LA is dotted with old neighbourhoods filled with craftsman to art deco architecture as well as the many revival styles of the early 20th century. so many textures this spring, copper mixing with brilliant stones and juicy colours. its gritty in the city, its night in the city, but its always beautiful in LA.

elisabeth joy murray fashion/accessory stylist

kelly casper lombardo assistant stylist:

carlos anthony olivas assistant photographer / model

(click on image for fashion information)

















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