Monday, December 12, 2011

central library: downtown la's block of knowledge


From the first days getting situated with my new neighborhood downtown, the Central Library has been near the top of my list of things I have wanted to shoot.  

As I penetrate deeper into the realm of professional photography I find inspiration in so many things. Today, December 12th, 2011 marks my 1 year anniversary living in California...Let this post serve as a celebration, and also a secret desire...

...Perhaps one day my work documenting the many treasures of SoCal will be in this very library!



thanks for reading!

        - j

Friday, December 2, 2011

lapd & the eviction of the occupyLA protesters

This last tuesday, November 29th, 2011 started out like any other.  I got up, checked e-mail, ran some errands around town, and ate some food.  All in all, a pretty un-eventful day.  4 blocks away from my apt. downtown, rumors had been circling for days about a possible raid of The OccupyLA protesters from City Hall by the LAPD.  By midnight 'un-eventful' would no longer describe the day, as it was replaced by a somewhat coordinated chaos.

I was on my way to the bar to grab a drink, when I decided to randomly check my twitter.  twitter isn't a source I often check for news, but after a quick check of my feed I saw @blogdowntown  post "Twitter is abuzz this evening with the idea that LAPD might clear the City Hall Occupy LA encampment tonight. If so, we'll be there."

A massive hoard of LAPD officers flooded the streets surrounding City Hall in Downtown LA.  Reports estimate 1,400 officers were on location to Evict the Wall St. Protesters.

I grabbed my Canon Rebel xs and prepared myself for a genuine adventure.  At 12:45am I made a peanut butter & jelly sammie, grabbed a bottle of water and hurried out to the streets.  I could hear a handful of helicopters swarming the area from my apt. and knew it might be difficult to get to the heart of the action if LAPD had already set up their blockades....  Unfortunately, I was right in thinking the blockades were already up...
Fortunately, I thrive off jumping fences, crawling behind benches and speed-tip-toeing past authorities.  This wasn't my first time playing free-runner with my camera slinged around my back, but it has certainly been the most exhilarating to date.

There were a few other citizen reporters that couldn't break the blockade, nor could they repeat my fence domination.  I felt bad, but had to keep movin' (sorry guys). Once I had slid through the lines, I had about 200 ft. of open road I had to cross.  It was the only route to the epicenter of the Eviction, the lawns of City Hall.  I straightened up, and walked with confidence.  A handful of officers passed by and I said to myself, 'you belong here, you belong here, you belong here!!!'  keeping my eyes straight ahead, the officers passed by without a 2nd glance...whew!

The sea of officers I witnessed on arrival was shocking.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  Never have I seen so many uniformed police descend on a single location.  By the time I reached ground zero the tent city of the Protesters was in shambles.  Later, protesters would explain to me how they were given little warning before officers began tearing their tents down with knives.  One protester even said she and those near her were 'beaten.'  According to @blogdowntown 292 arrests were made throughout the night

Once I established my presence as part of the media, I made my way around the chaos, talked to protesters and got my photos.  The police lines looked more like military units ready to react to any problems from protesters.  It was an experience I will never forget.

Thanks for reading!

           - j

Monday, November 14, 2011

union station: a day in black & white

I have been dying to shoot this for months.  Every morning I lace up my kicks and head out for a morning run through the beautiful downtown streets of LA.  I have put together a solid free-running route that really gets me ready for the day.  Running, jumping and spinning off ledges, walls and anything else I can find, the city's streets are my playground.

One particular morning a few months back, before I perfected my route, I ran out my building with no particular direction in mind...thats when I stumbled upon the uniquely aesthetic, beautifully historic staple of Los Angeles transportation, Union Station.

Located a few blocks northeast of downtown LA, Union Station is so much more than just a rail station.  It centrally connects all the corners of some of the most famous geographic area's in the world.  Union Station offers it's passengers something we as Americans value above almost everything else...freedom.

hollywood, venice beach, santa monica, santa barbara, san diego, huntington beach, downtown LA, beverly hills, the oc, newport beach and the list goes on.  All of Southern California is accessible from Union Station and that is a beautiful thing.  

After stumbling upon this gem, I starting planning my return, and this time I would be prepared with my canon rebel xs.  

I envisioned all the various aspects that make up Union Station painted in a thick coat of Black & White.  The scenes were so vivid in my eyes, I knew that when I returned to shoot the album, it was going to be a success.

Opting once again to leave my car parked in the garage, I hopped on the subway just outside my building, and began my mission to bring to life all the photographic visions I had bouncing around my head.  A day in Black &White was underway!

Plans for SoCal's 'Union' Station began as early as 1915.  However, due to disagreements over the site location and project financing, its construction was delayed until 1934 and was finally completed 5 years later in 1939.  

This blog is about my adventures throughout Southern California.  The land of endless summers, and the place where life's dreams come to flourish and grow.  Now while I do love my car, I see SoCal's Union Station becoming more and more apart of my adventures in the future.

for more information on LA's beautiful Union Station check out it's amazing history or just come and experience it for yourself!

Thanks for reading!

             - j

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

the university of california, los angeles, part 3: interviews @UCLA!

At last...the long awaited Part 3 of my 3 part series, 'My Serious Adventure to the Beautiful Campus of UCLA' has come.  What an adventure it has been!  If you've missed out on the whole story, check out Part 1:   a dead battery forces me to the cafe I have shunned since I moved in.  Part 2: a humorous bus ride turned art gallery.  And Part 2 1/2: campus architecture!

Now its time for the best part of my day, the interviews!  

When I first stepped on campus, I looked around amazed at the luscious green escape that UCLA offers.  I ran into some students waiting for the campus bus and asked where the best place is on campus to find people lounging around (the perfect type to interview!).    I was pointed in the direction of 'janns steps' named after the real estate developers who sold UCLA the land the campus now rests on; the Janns brothers.

I found four willing candidates to chat with around campus, lets start with the two lovely ladies studying psychology; Natalie and Eva!

          Natalie                                         Eva

Natalie and Eva are both fourth year Seniors studying psychology.  Both girls are 1st generation Persian-Americans, and both girls chose UCLA as their college for the same reasons; 

'So what brought you to UCLA?'

1.  love the location of campus!
     -socal, los angeles, the ocean beaches, sunny weather
2.  friends also attend UCLA
3.  great psychology program
4.  UCLA is known as a particularly prestigious university to attend among the Persian community
     -thats pretty cool!

The girls explained that after the Iranian Revolution in 1979, there was a large Persian immigration to the U.S. and many chose either the East coast in NY or the west coast in California!

'What do you like most about UCLA / campus life?'

both girls live off campus and don't spend much time on campus other than class, but they did say that the campus is...

Eva: 'pretty!  It's a good place for the college experience, you get the prestigious experience and UCLA lives up-to the name!  It's very diverse on campus, you don't feel discriminated against no matter who you are.'

Natalie:  'relaxing!  We are proud to have come to UCLA, everyone is always wearing their UCLA sweaters and stuff like that.  (she wasn't lying, I've never seen a campus like this, where every single student is wearin' their school colors so proud and confident!)  And people don't judge you here.  Everyone has their own identity.'

'What do you enjoy the most about SoCal?'

The girls tag-teamed this one!

They explained how they love the weather, the people and how easy and laid back they are.  They also enjoy having everything at their fingertips, ocean, desert and mountains.  They also said they like how LA is a good balance of city & suburb.

To Natalie and Eva, thank you for taking some time to share your stories with me.  I thank you for the conversation, and good-luck on your mid-terms!

Next, Jia and Raman, two 1st year Grad Students!

Jia                                                                  Raman

'ok guys so I got your names already...Ramon right?'

Raman: 'It's like R-A-M-A-N.'

Jia:  'like top ramon, but with an 'A'!'

'Annnnd...I'm sorry I forgot your name...'

Jia:  'Jia, with a 'J'.'

'Ok perfect!  Got your guy's names, whats your year and currently studying?'

Jia:  We're first year Grad Students in Architecture for the M Arch 1 Program (Masters in Architecture)

'And what did you guys study as undergrads?'

Jia: 'I went to UCSD (UC San Diego) for Art history'

Raman:  'I did architecture at The University of Texas in Arlington.'

Jia:  'This is like our first professional interview!  Once we start a collective, it will be like this everyday!' Raman:   laughing!

'ok great, so what brought you guys to UCLA?  I guess some of the usual things are family tradition, location, friends, possibly the degree program...'

Jia:  'Yea thats the biggest, the most important one.'

Raman: 'Yea it was definitley the degree program.

'so architecture is big at UCLA?'

Raman:  'Well for me it was a balance of the faculty and the quality of the degree program.....and the weather!'

Jia:  'Or like, I'm from LA, so the few schools I ended up applying to, LA was 1 of 4.  And I wasn't living in the city [when I applied].

'was it only schools in California that you applied to?'

Jia:  'One in California, and three on the east coast.'

'oh, why the east coast?  just want to kind of get away?!'

Jia:  'I don't know actually...well I was working with an Architectural Collective and I was living in Berlin, so I only wanted to come back to the States if I was going to be in the top programs.  I applied to Harvard, MIT, and Penn and I got into Penn and UCLA.  So it was between those two and UCLA was just a better program actually.  It's much more interesting, much more artistic and Penn was more technical I felt...And I'm more of a west coast girl!'

'west coast girls!  thats what this blog is kinda all about!  that easy laid back west coast culture you know?'  

Jia:  'I didn't actually know that it was so different, I never really spent any time on the east coast when I was little, so when I went over to visit a few schools this year it was so weird!  Its all about the traditions over there, its crazy!'

'ok so what do you guys like most about UCLA?  We kind of already touched that you guys enjoy the weather, and being Grad Students you are too busy to really soak up the campus experience.  But, what would you say you like about campus the most?'

Raman:  'I would say the naturyness of it!'

Jia:  'It's like a proper academic setting.'

Raman:  'Yea!  You feel like you have history on this campus, it's been here awhile!  The thing we do criticize about the campus is that its so segregated between Westwood (city UCLA is Located) and campus.  It is hard to mix your academic and social life

Jia:  'The other thing is that UCLA, well there is a mountain behind it and then in front there's the most expensive property in all of Los Angeles and its all residential (Beverley Hills Area).  So its a really weird and bad dynamic to have.  

Raman:  'Yea we are surrounded by a sea of residential!'

Jia:  'Yea like USC, it's not in the best neighborhood, but its in an interesting neighborhood.  It's a neighborhood for students!'

'ok so sometimes you guys kinda feel...trapped on campus?!'

Both:  'Yea, yes definitely!'

'hmmmm I wasn't expecting that answer!  but I applaud you guys for thinking outside the box!  Ok so moving outside of UCLA, what do you guys enjoy about southern california in-particular?  Jia, you're a local girl, lets start with you!'

Jia: 'Well I just got back from SF, and I love SF!  But I also realized that LA is like so ugly, that its pretty.  Like, you can still get lost in LA, whereas cities like NY and SF, you feel like everyone has seen and been the the places you've been to.  There's no discovery, and there's so many parts of LA you can still discover!'

Raman:  'For sure!  Well from an outsiders point of view, the thing that I like about it is that its like 10 different cities in one area, and the diversity and the authenticity that you get from one area to another, its pretty unreal.  Unless you're in NY or you know, another large city, you're not gonna get the same quality you get at like k-town.  And the the histories behind the districts, its pretty intriguing.  The food is amazing, there is the most authentic, diverse types of foods, infusions of them!'

Jia:  'And you have to work hard to find LA...'  <----------  poetry!  :)

Raman:  'That and you run into so many people that you can relate to because of where you are.  It's kind of like the New York of the west coast.  There's alot of cool people with a-lot of interesting stories.'

'ok so thats all my questions, did you guys have anything you wanted to add?  Something my readers might like to know about SoCal?'

Jia:  'You should mention that LA has a river!' 

Raman:  'Well LA has a really awesome music and art scene...'

Jia:  'Yea, it's all concrete an-- (Jia proceeds to shift the conversation away from Raman's rather relevant topic of LA's music and art scene in favor of the forgotten Los Angeles River!) 

'--and I think the river is the most overlooked part of of LA, and the most ridiculed!

(me and Raman are both laughing!)

Raman:  'She is on this crusade for the river!'

Jia:  '...and I think its the most fantastic place of Los Angeles can go to parts of the river in San Fernando Valley that aren't covered with concrete and you can go kayaking there!  But you can also go for walks in the river!  
You can look for this one group called Urban Rangers they are really interesting because they do a lot of tours of Los Angeles, of like the beaches people think are private, but they are public beaches where owners have put up fake signs that say its private property!  They uncover a lot of aspects where it should be public but has become privatized.  And the river should be public!  Even though it's concrete and terribly ugly, its an interesting site to go and see!  
There's an underground tunnel off Santa Fe where you can walk into the river!  It used to be really nice because people used to go graffiti there, but they covered it all up earlier this year.  I mean, whats the problem with graffitying concrete, like its a river!  No-one's lookin at it!  I don't understand at all!

'ok cool, well thanks so much for the conversation guys!  let me know when you're headed to the bars downtown!'

To Jia and Raman, thank you for sharing your stories with me, goodluck in your graduate studies and get out and see more than just the campus coffee shops!  

I hope you all have enjoyed 'My Serious Adventure to the Beautiful Campus of UCLA!'  I look forward to another successful trip to USC in the coming weeks, and who know's where else...

Thanks for reading!

               - j

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

the beautiful campus of ucla! part 2 1/2 of 3 'campus architecture'

The Architecture of UCLA

Stay tuuuuuuuuuned...Part 3, the final chapter of My Serious Adventure to the Beautiful Campus of UCLA is next!

Thanks for lookin!

           - j