Eyes on L.A.

My KCRW commentary today talked about two photographers of L.A. who approach their subject from different directions, Bruce Davidson and Martin Schall. It aired, as every Friday, at 4:44 p.m. Audio is available at; the text is below after the jump.

This is Kevin Roderick with LA Observed for KCRW.

We didn’t plan it this way, but earlier this week on the LA Observed website we had two posts back to back about photographers from out of town casting their eyes on Los Angeles.

Both artists are resolute in their pursuit of L.A. as subject, yet completely different in what they bring to the task. As you’ll see.

Bruce Davidson is 76 years old and a graduate of the 1960s wave that brought us artists such as Garry Winogrand and Diane Arbus.

Davidson is known for his images of gritty urban New York and New Yorkers, but he’s been crawling around L.A. a lot recently focusing his lens on the landscape.

A Sunday story in the New York Times found him in the Hollywood Hills, equipped with rappelling gear trying to work himself into perfect position to shoot the backside of the Hollywood sign.

I can’t wait to see how that turns out, and the rest of Davidson’s new Los Angeles work.

The other photographer is a 42-year-old German named Martin Schall. He has no training in photography, and makes his living as an engineer on oil and gas rigs in the North Sea, and training other engineers in places like Iran and Dubai.

Schall spends his holidays here, shooting photographs of Los Angeles for a website he created that’s nothing less than the most authoritative source of photos on L.A. buildings and architecture.

I had visited with Schall in his home city of Stuttgart in September, and since he’s here now on one of his shooting holidays I took the opportunity to drive him around L.A.
He wanted see the Westside area where I live, but I wanted to surprise him with some hidden L.A. gems.

That was harder than you’d think, since a decade of exploring L.A. has taken him into many parts of the city.

I pored through his thousands of photos on the site at looking for a few holes I could fill in an afternoon.

We headed first to the old Japanese district in Sawtelle, which he had somehow missed, then drove into the VA hospital grounds wedged between Brentwood and the 405 freeway.

The VA reservation dates to 1887 and is one of my favorite historic L.A. spots. Martin immediately got it, jumping out to make images of the old white chapel that’s the oldest surviving structure along Wilshire Boulevard.

He appreciated the solemnity of the national cemetery on Sepulveda Boulevard, then was surprised to discover the much tinier cemetery in nearby Westwood with tourists crowding around the graves of Marilyn Monroe and Farrah Fawcett.

The day was going well, and I scored a few more points by spotting a noteworthy Richard Neutra apartment in the Westwood hills and a Greene and Greene craftsman beauty in Beverly Hills that few realize used to reside on Wilshire.

After a lunch break at Nate n’ Al’s to compare notes, we headed toward Hollywood to fill in two glaring absences in the You-Are-Here portfolio.

One was the Hollywood Reservoir, which Martin had tried to find on his own, knowing that it had to be in his collection.

And just before dark, we snuck into the side door of the Hollywood Bowl. He hadn’t realized that the seating area is open to the public most of the time, and he was grateful to get some pictures.

The afternoon went by too fast, forcing us to skip targets of interest in all directions. I wanted to take him around the Eastside and to some secret spots in the Valley. He’d like to figure out San Pedro and the port area a little more.

Luckily, with Martin Schall and, there’s always next time.

For KCRW, this has been Kevin Roderick with LA Observed.

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