BUSPASS: Kim Stringfellow in Los Angeles

September 18, 2008

Kim Stringfellow is a photographer and media artist based in Angelino Heights, close to downtown L.A. Kim’s photographic work examines the beauty of modern ruins. Her study of the Salton Sea, a environmental “mistake’ south of Palm Springs, and later series of attempted (and failed) resorts, is a fascinating subject for her book, “Salton Sea: Folly and Intervention in the Southern California Landscape, 1905-2005“.

Kim took us on a walking tour of Downtown L.A. It’s not an area people often associate with tourism or interesting places to visit when thinking about Los Angeles, and probably for that reason it was an incredibly interesting journey. The tour centered around a walk down Broadway, a once vibrant component to the L.A. scene. Lined with the largest concentration of theatres from the Art Deco period in the country, many of these places are abandoned, or now operate as pawn shops, stores for cheap t-shirts, music venues, or Hispanic B movies. Our favourite was one which had been converted into a church – Catedral de la Fe Theatre – an appropriate transformation given its movie palace past. The grandeur of these theatres has remained untempered though regardless of their current dilapidation. There definitely was a strong connection between what Kim was showing us and her work. Within this though, were some amazing little gems.

Catedral de la Fe Theatre, Los Angeles

The Grand Central Farmer’s market was chock full of good inexpensive fare, from Mexican to South East Asian. Like everything else that we’d seen previous and upcoming on our walk, there was a real authenticity to the place. Close to here is also the Angel’s Flight Railway-the shortest tram line in the country and once a favourite location for a number of Noir films shot in the 40s and 50s. Not far from here, is the Clifton Restaurant (Cafe): a fantastic and kitschy step back to another time.

Clifton's Restaurant, Los Angeles

Grand Central Farmer's Market, Los Angeles

After our tour, we talked a little more extensively about Kim’s work, and in particular about her new project, Jackrabbit Homestead, a photo essay on California’s Pioneertown, located near Joshua Tree’s National Park.

After spending some time with Kim, we did our own tour of downtown, and were pleasantly surprised with what we found. It was nice that within a city that is so car dependent that one can still find things to discover on foot . There is a rich history to downtown L.A. that has been overshadowed over the years by the  Hollywood of amusement parks and shopping districts which cater to conspicuous consumption.

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