Los Angeles 1964 – Bruce Davidson

A few weeks back I received what is actually my first photo book, After watching the “Everybody Street” documentary I got a little inspired especially by Bruce Davidson who was photographing people on the NYC subway. I dug a little deeper and realised he recently released a photo book that I could first hand relate too and I wanted to see more.

“Esquire’s editors sent me to Los Angeles, and when I landed at L.A. International Airport I noticed giant palm trees growing in the parking lot. I ordered a hamburger through a microphone speaker in a drive-in called Tiny Naylor’s. The freeways were blank and brilliant, chromium-plated bumpers reflected the Pacific Ocean, but the air quality was said to be bad.

People looking like mannequins seemed at peace on the Sunset Strip while others were euphoric as they watered the desert. I stood there ready with my Leica, aware of my shadow on the pavement. I walked up to strangers, framed, focused, and in a split second of alienations and cynicism, pressed the shutter button. Suddenly I had an awakening that led me to another level of visual understanding. But in the end, for some unknown reasons, the editors rejected the pictures, and I had to return home with a big box of prints, put them in a drawer, and forgot all about the trip.”
Bruce Davidson.

The book is really nice, You have to remember this was shot in 1964 and on film and there are some interesting characters & scenes showcased here.

The book is more a snapshot of a few interesting people or places he stumbled upon. I would have liked to see some inclusion of iconic landmarks from that time or some way of setting the location. Sunset Strip, Hollywood Sign, Beverly Hills, Chinatown, Rodeo, Mulholland, etc.. perhaps these places we’re not such a big deal back then, but it almost could have been shot anywhere in California.

It’s a tough one to actually criticize the technique or subject matter but I feel the true value has come from waiting approximately 50 years before releasing the project. It’s hard to comment on how they would have been received if they were released in 1964 but I feel time has been the wow factor here. Everyone loves to see throwback photos, even fashion dips back into the 60′ and 70’s etc so perhaps the thousands of photos taken in today’s society will eventually mean something in time.

It may just remind people that life was good when you just had a Nokia 3210 with snake on it, & or perhaps not seeing everyone’s glamorous life through Instagram was a more content way of living.

Its hard to say if instagram or flickr will still be around but at least a book will. I guess that is another reason to print your work or at continue publishing photobooks.

Here are a few snaps of my own to showcase the book, you can find the actual photos from the book here on the Magnum site , I would probably say the shot of the pose at muscle beach is my favorite.





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