Monday, October 31, 2011

Occupy LA

Although this is not a news blog, it's pretty hard to ignore it when something in your neighborhood becomes a national news item. The Occupy Wall Street movement is today's "big news" and has its counterpart here in Los Angeles at City Hall, just a few blocks from my apartment, so the other day I headed on over to to see what I would see.

As a former photojournalist, I am acutely aware of the use of photography as propaganda, but at the same time I'm aware that even such masters of the photographic essay as W. Eugene Smith struggled to "tell a story" through photographs. In a certain sense this campout on the City Hall lawn is what is called in the news biz "spot news";  for better or worse, it's treated as a kind of curiosity, akin to the cat stuck in a tree or a visitation from some traveling carnival, and not really a story as such. With no published agenda, it's fair to say that it can be perceived as somewhat incoherent.

As is the case at such events, the place was crawling with sightseers: people wielding cameras, from point-and-shoot pocket cameras to iPhones to some actual working news photographers wielding their Big Guns, everyone happily snapping away. But to what end - tourism or history - I can't say.

My years of chasing news lead me to conclude that there is rarely a photographic set of starting blocs for any given historical event and photojournalists are almost always late arrivals in any case. Sure enough, I arrived on Day 19. This on-going event has no particular end in sight or police confrontations scheduled, so I took my default fallback position and attempted to take a picture - any picture - that would cohere the incoherence, some sort of "framing of the narrative" of the proceedings thus far. Or at the very least, some modest proof that I was there when history was being made.

Image details: Nikon D1x w/Nikkor 18-55 f3.5 DX AF

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hand me that bottle, fella

Many people are unaware of this - and when you think about it, it does seem counterintuitive (home of Skid Row and all that) - but the fact of the matter is that downtown LA has very few liquor stores - only four that I'm aware of. Sure you can buy wine and beer all over, but a bottle of Johnnie Walker? that's tough. With the exception of the liquor section in the Rite Aide drugstore on Broadway, they also close damn early - at 6 PM.

This particular store is even more of an oddity; besides being almost hidden in the Grand Central Market at Broadway and 3rd, it has almost no floor space, and the liquor bottles (and clerk) are literally climbing the walls.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Farmlab's art garden

The other day we posted an image of Nick's Cafe. Well, if you do stop in there for breakfast or lunch, after you break your fast you might want to cruise on up Spring Street just a bit further, where it becomes a bridge over the LA River. Just under the beginning of the bridge is another hidden LA gem, Lauren Bon's Farmlab art gallery/performance space. In the area literally under the bridge, where one usually finds the odd discarded tires and whatnots is an art garden, in an Oriental theme, featuring sculpture and neon.

Farmlab art garden (C) 2011 gpfoto
Farmlab's address is 1745 N Spring St, Unit 4, and their phone is 323 226-1158.

As always, click on the image for a bigger version.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Nick's Cafe

Nick's Cafe (C)2011 Glenn Primm Photo
Terence Lyons is a journalist friend who writes me occasionally to fill me in on Los Angeles treasures that he runs across in his wanderings around Los Angeles. Recently he wrote me about Nick's Cafe, an LA landmark that has been operating in the same location just north of downtown LA since almost forever.

This morning I had breakfast at Nick’s Café on North Spring Street just past Chinatown, on the way to the Spring Street bridge over the L.A. River, across the street from what used to be the rail yards, was then briefly Lauren Bon’s Not a Cornfield artwork, and is now the Los Angeles State Historic Park.

Nick’s (“since 1948”) is two dozen stools bolted to the floor around a horseshoe formica counter, with a “CASH ONLY” sign over the almost-antique inoperable cash register in the middle. The walls are jammed with menu boards, old photos, maps, collections of sleeve patches and lapel pins, a couple of paintings of the place from different eras, and newspaper awards (BEST VINTAGE EATS IN DOWNTOWN). My favorite is the 2004 award from the Los Angeles Downtown News naming Nick’s Café as "Best Place to Watch Cops and Artists Mingle."

There is a model railroad track that runs around all four walls just below the ceiling, although I’ve never seen a model train running. To use the restroom, you have to go outdoors and around the back (and then inhale to squeeze between the open door and the washbasin to get inside).

This morning the place was busy – only a couple of empty stools when I walked in shortly after 10, following a morning meeting in the MacArthur Park area and then a ride to the nearby Chinatown Gold Line station. As I sipped my coffee, a fellow standing behind me hit me up for a handout so he could “get a cup of coffee down the street,” nodding toward the river. That’s what I get for being the only one in Nick’s wearing a tie; but I knew there was no place “down the street” to get a cup of coffee.

When the waitress brought my SoCal Scramble (eggs with grilled onion, bell peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, jalapenos, avocado), she automatically set down two napkins (one for the lap, one for the moustache, just right) and pulled over a ketchup bottle and a carafe of homemade chipotle sauce. You have to love the place.

She said the first 90 minutes of her shift (they open at 5:30) had been hectic with City workers and sheriffs, some on their way to work and others just getting off. (The water and power department yards are nearby, as is the county jail.) After a quiet hour, she said, it got busy again around 8:00, and it was only beginning to calm a bit as I was leaving. But the lunch crowd was only an hour away.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bicycles, bicycles

The process of the rejuvenation of the Broadway corridor in downtown LA is relentless. Here we see what was once a discount store of fashion factory seconds has been replaced by a bicycle shop featuring state-of-art machines. Another step forward for alternate transportation, as well as another venue for urban art.

Bicycle shop, Broadway corridor (C)2011 gpfoto

Click on photo for larger image.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hidden LA

There are so many nooks and crannies in the downtown area that I am in a constant state of amazement at opportunities to shoot the extraordinary on any given day. It's no wonder that the area is in near constant use as locations for Hollywood movies and television shows.

This image was taken in St Vincent Court, a cul-de-sac done up like a European village street, sandwiched between and behind two large office buildings in the area known as the Jewelry District.

St_Vincent_Court_69-313 (C)2011 Glenn Primm Photo

Click on the pic for a larger version.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

It's always about the light

Little Tokyo checkerboard (C) 2011 Glenn Primm Photo

California is noted for its sunlight and is one reason that so many have immigrated here. This Little Tokyo shop drinks in that wonderful sunlight and gives it back in happy colors.