Before Google’s camera-cars crawled our streets like a fleet of curious robots, photographers used their two feet to capture what our cities looked like. And today I discovered a new one, William Reagh, in a story by the always-excellent KCET Artbound. I was totally captivated by Reagh, who would visit the same neighborhoods over and over to document the story of a quickly changing LA. As his son tells the author, Lynell George: “He loved Cartier-Bresson and the concept of photographer as stroller. But, I think he thought of himself as a preservationist; someone who just needed to be doing this. He seemed to feel somebody had to.”
It made me think about the photos I take while I’m walking around LA today. Like Reagh, I hope to bear witness to a transforming city. When I lived in Hollywood the urban landscape was changing so quickly that it was one of the reasons I started this blog. But in 50 years will anyone care? Will anyone even want to go through—the over 14,000 (and counting!)—images I’ve shot of LA? And what will set mine apart from the millions of other Angelenos who are doing the same thing? What can make our photos of LA mean something a half century from now?
Something to think about as you post your Instagrams this weekend.
Top image: Reagh’s shot of Angel’s Flight sometime in the 1960’s; Bottom image: My shot of Angels Flight (minus the apostrophe), 2010