Observing an L.A. photographer

Hollywood Dreamer

After living here for 27 years, Iris Schneider just bought her first car. She wasn't holding out. It's just that she had to give up the car provided to staff photographers when she volunteered for the recent buyout from the Los Angeles Times.

Now that she has a used Volvo and more time, Schneider is hitting the streets to explore and document "the quirkiness and diversity" of Los Angeles. She's from New York, where she freelanced for the New York Times, Rolling Stone and other magazines. She was hired at the L.A. Times in 1980, after some unplanned excitement. Headed home from her job interview, Schneider's flight was hijacked by a deranged woman who threatened to blow up the plane unless Charlton Heston read a statement left in a phone booth. Also on board were actors Sam Jaffe and Dino Martin Jr., superagent Sue Mengers, New York Magazine publisher Joe Armstrong and folk singer Theodore Bikel. Schneider's photos of the ordeal made Life, Stern and other publications.

Since leaving the Times, she has posted a Flickr set of her recent Los Angeles photos. The image above of Hollywood hopeful Rodney Peterson, shot outside The Improv, is a good example of what Schneider looks for around the city.

Coming to Los Angeles as a virtual stranger , I learned to love my Thomas Guide. Having a job on a newspaper forced me to get to know the city. I was lucky I had to drive around and see it all. I've covered everything from the Academy Awards to gang funerals. I love the diversity of this city and the diversity of a journalists' life….

I guess the main difference between New York and Los Angeles that was quickly apparent is that fewer people walk as a mode of transportation. So it's a little harder to stumble upon interesting things, though not impossible. If you pass something while you're driving by, it can take a while to get to it.

Schneider hopes her photographs will "broaden peoples vision of Los Angeles." She is working on a visual column about the city and trying to find it a home, in print or online. Her Flickr gallery is the beginning.

A couple of weeks after encountering Rodney Peterson on Melrose, Schneider was reminded that even in a city as big as Los Angeles, paths can cross unexpectedly. She ran into him again, this time walking the aisles of the Bristol Farms in Beverly Hills, carrying his sign.

This is the first post in what I intend as an occasional series about Los Angeles photographers whose subject is the city.

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