Observing Los Angeles

A Dutch woman has been photographing Skid Row for 6 years

skid-row-vanhoek.jpgPhotos by Désirée van Hoek.

In a piece up at Medium's Vantage blog, Desiree van Hoek explains why she has been taking pictures of downtown's Skid Row — arguably the most globally distinctive thing about Los Angeles. She writes that people ask her, sometimes with a hint of reproach, "Why are you — a relatively wealthy, white girl from Amsterdam — spending your summers on the other side of the planet photographing the poor and the homeless in Los Angeles?” From her piece:

People are rightfully curious. Am I taking advantage of people? What’s my investment? What are my intentions? What’s in it for the Skid Row residents? These are fair and vital questions to someone like me who is photographing some of society’s most disadvantaged and vulnerable citizens. So let me answer them.

I came into the neighbourhood by chance in 2007. Close to the Hollywood Building where I spent my holiday lived a homeless family. Their so-called home consisted of a few mattresses, food items, and children’s toys, stuck between two walls. One day, there was a fire, and all of it was gone.

This made me sad, but it also made me see. Suddenly, I noticed these “homes” everywhere. Strolling through Los Angeles you’ll find them hidden in corners, alleys, parks, bushes, and bus-stops — or just in plain sight on the sidewalk.

Human living conditions had been my main area of interest in the years since I shifted from fashion photography to documentary. When someone took me to Skid Row, I knew I had found my subject.

More over there. She is asking for support via Kickstarter to publish a book of her Skid Row photographs. She identifies Los Angeles Times reporter Gale Holland as a partner on the project. Here is van Hoek's own website.


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