Category: Photography/Art


We Out Here

by Rian Dundon

From Boom Summer 2014, Vol 4, No 2

Editor’s note: We asked photographer Rian Dundon to put a face on the displacement that is roiling San Francisco. His photo essay focuses on the city, but also on surrounding areas like Oakland, San Jose, and even Santa Cruz because, as he noted: these issues spill out. “Especially if you’re talking about inequality, geographically, you have to look at if people are being kicked out of San Francisco, where are they ending up?” He told us that he approached the assignment not as a journalist but from “a more ambiguous space in photography—to find the power of what can be suggested more than literally described.”

He added: “This idea of ‘what’s the matter with San Francisco’ can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. I wanted to touch on some of the major broader themes of housing and transportation, but I wanted to do it in a way that is less direct, while also acknowledging the fact that in some ways nothing is the matter. It’s still a diverse, dynamic, incredibly interesting place to be, to live, to work. For a lot of people, the majority of people, our day to day lives are not infiltrated by Google buses, tech shuttles, or techies. That’s a minor thing in a lot of people’s lives as opposed to how’s it’s blown up in the media.”

“We out here” is a slang term that originated among skateboarders in San Francisco, where it referred to the hard work of constant practice in the cityscape, but it has since evolved and spread. Now it refers more to living in the moment, making the most of what you have and maintaining a sense of solidarity within a community. Whatever we have, whoever we are, we’re all working hard, striving and surviving “out here” at the edge of the new world.

Morning commuters from Sacramento watch the sunrise over the San Joaquin River Delta as they travel towards San Francisco. Outside Concord, 2013.

Young Family at Ocean Beach. San Francisco, 2014.

Portrait of painter RW: formerly of SF, since moved to Oakland. San Francisco, 2011.

James in his SRO apartment shortly before leaving the city. Soma, SF 2013.

Bus Stop Billboard. Tenderloin, SF 2014.

Security at a private, Microsoft sponsored Blake Shelton concert held outside City Hall. Civic Center Plaza, SF 2013.

Oakland rapper Philthy Rich poses for pictures with female fans. Santa Cruz, 2012.

Baseball Parade. Market Street, SF 2010.

Downtown. Oakland, 2013.

SRO Fire Escape. Soma, SF 2010.

All photographs courtesy of Rian Dundon.



Stop the Presses

From Boom Summer 2014, Vol 4, No 2

Broadsides from the frontlines of gentrification

Editor’s note: The story of how San Francisco Eviction Times came to be is a San Francisco story, of the kind many fear might soon disappear. Last fall, Art Hazelwood and Patrick Piazza handed out anti-gentrification posters in the Mission at a Day of the Dead exhibition commemorating the life and work of the late Mexican political printmaker Jose Guadalupe Posada. There they struck up conversations with other activists and artists, including a DJ at San Francisco’s Mutiny Radio, who invited them to create a show for the radio station. So Hazelwood and Piazza circulated a flyer by Posada that read “Esta hoja volante se publicará cuando los acontecimientos de sensación lo requieran” (“This broadside will be published when sensational events require it”). They sent it to artists they knew in the city, and asked them each to create Posada-inspired posters about the anti-gentrification struggle in the Mission. And the artists delivered. Their work was exhibited at Mutiny Radio this spring. As powerful as the posters are, the creation of the show itself is a testament to what could be lost as the Mission becomes more and more unaffordable. What follows are posters from San Francisco Eviction Times, courtesy of the artists and Patrick Piazza, who photographed them for Boom.

Poster by Art Hazelwood.

Poster by Mobile Arts Platform.

Poster by Jos Sances.

Poster by Patrick Piazza.

Poster by Jos Sances.

Poster by Veronica Solis.


Image at top is a detail from a poster by Jose Cruz.



by Ronald Rael and Virginia San Fratello

From Boom Spring 2014, Vol. 4, No. 1

Borderland Dreams

Since 2000, we have been traveling along the United States–Mexico border, collecting memories and stories of the places and people we have met, and documenting a series of scenarios, real and imagined, along the border wall.

Together they tell a very different story of what has been the largest construction project in twenty-first-century America—a story that is different from what you see in the news. Almost exactly the distance of the Grand Tour, the tourism route for upper-class Europeans that went from London to Rome, this journey stretches for 1,931 miles along the border with the United States. This Grand Borderlands Tour traces the consequences of a security infrastructure that stands both conceptually and physically perpendicular to human mobility. The artifacts that Grand Tourists would return home with—art, books, pictures, sculpture—became symbols of wealth and freedom. Our border wall has become a barrier to movement that would create art, books, pictures, sculpture, wealth, freedom.

On this journey, our collected experiences are represented in the form of snow globes: souvenirs, or recuerdos—a Spanish term that defines both the trinkets one might purchase at tourist shops and memories. The recuerdos gathered along our border are tragic, sublime, and absurd, occasionally hyperbolized, but in all cases based on our own experiences and actual events in the liminal space that defines the boundary between the United States and Mexico.

Cemetery Wall.


Confessional Wall.


Climbing Wall.


Volley Ball Wall.


Burrito Wall.


Wildlife Wall.


Xylophone Wall.


Teeter Totter Wall.


All images courtesy Rael San Fratello.


Aqueduct Archives Slideshow

Building the Los Angeles Aqueduct required large-scale planning, collaboration between engineers, urban planners, and construction teams, and no small degree of political maneuvering. Records of the aqueduct’s construction are dispersed at several archives along its length, from the Eastern Sierra to the heart of Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Aqueduct Digital Platform—a joint project of UCLA Library and the Metabolic Studio—is aggregating archival materials that document this massive undertaking as well as the aqueduct’s impact on Southern California’s urban growth, civic history, and regional environment. By providing access to these historical records through a centralized portal, the digital platform will facilitate their discovery and use in research and education. This slideshow features archived photographs from three repositories that have are digitizing aqueduct-related materials: Special Collections, Honnold/Mudd Library of The Claremont Colleges; Department of Archives and Special Collections, William H. Hannon Library, Loyola Marymount University; and UC-Riverside Library’s Water Resources Collections and Archives. These images help tell the story of the aqueduct through the eyes of people who worked to make this ambitious endeavor a reality.

Slideshow by Sara V. Torres and Annie Powers, Boom: A Journal of California, and the Center for Digital Humanities at UCLA. Want to share it on your website? Get the embed code.

And visit the new Los Angeles Aqueduct Digital Platform to explore the archives yourself.



Aqueduct Road Trip Slideshow

A few months ago we stumbled on a photo album at the Huntington Library in San Marino that gave us a unique peek into the lives of two Angelenos – William Frick and Julius Oliver. These two friends were so fascinated by the two-year-old Los Angeles Aqueduct that they embarked on a road trip to photograph it. The photo album reads like a combination between a buddy movie and an adventure story, combining car culture, movie culture, and water culture into one scrapbook. As we consider the aqueduct as an engineering feat, symbol of the city’s hunger and growth, or giver of life to Los Angeles, this is a reminder at earlier Angelenos had a far less freighted relationship with the pipeline. Sometimes a pipe is just a pipe, nothing more than a reason to gas up the Ford and take a trip. A handful of photos from the album are in the fall issue of Boom along with an essay by Assistant Editor Annie Powers, and we’re excited to be able to share the whole album here, where it’s accompanied by “My Little Ford,” the 1915 song listed as its soundtrack on the book’s last page.

In fact, we have been so excited about the album that we couldn’t resist posting a few images from it online while the issue was still in production. Some of our eagle-eyed, historically-minded readers helped us to track down the Hollywood address where Frick and Oliver began their journey. Those early photos also found their way to Ann Campbell, granddaughter of William Frick. Ann was kind enough to send us some of her family photos – and even take some of her own. Together, Boom and Ann visited the address pictured in Frick and Oliver’s photo album. There’s now an apartment building where the house once stood, but across the street there’s a house nearly identical to the one pictured. Here’s Ann standing in front of that house, holding the original photograph.

Image by Rita Blaik.

Slideshow by Annie Powers and the Center for Digital Humanities at UCLA. Want to share it on your website? Click here to see the embed code.

And visit the new Los Angeles Aqueduct Digital Platform to explore the archives yourself.


An Aqueduct Road Trip, 1915

by Annie Powers

From Boom Fall 2013, Vol. 3, No. 3

From the Huntington Library archives.

In 1915, just two years after the Los Angeles Aqueduct was completed, Julius Goodwin Oliver and William Henry Frick packed up their Ford Model T and drove north from Hollywood to see where their water came from. Frick lovingly photographed the 250-mile trip and collected the images in a photo album that we found in the Huntington Library’s archives. It is a delightful time capsule—a series of stills laid out like a prospectus for a silent movie—chronicling the landscape; the new infrastructure of the aqueduct, reservoirs, and roads; the men themselves; their home in LA; and, of course, their car. The album even has a soundtrack. “The Little Ford”—a 1915 song that humorously recounts a series of hazards endured by a Model T—is listed among the credits on the last page.

Like the aqueduct, the car, which would transform Los Angeles, was relatively new on the scene. In 1915, the Ford Motor Company would produce its millionth car. Only seven years after the first Model T rolled off an assembly line in Detroit, Michigan, Ford was building a new car in just 93 minutes and, in the process, making automobiles affordable for many middle-class Americans. Across the country, a new car culture was being created in songs, books, movies, newspapers, and amateur photographs like those in this album. The Model T also ushered in the age of the road trip. In 1915, car camping was still a real adventure. In the beginning of this album, Frick and Oliver’s relatives cluster around the car “amid tears” at the “starting of the EXPEDITION,” and near the end their “return safe and sound” is met with “rejoicing among our relatives.”

The photo album also seems to be an early example of another emerging genre: the buddy movie. In addition to the soundtrack credit, the back cover names Oliver “director” and Frick the “head camera man,” and it announces, “Mr. Oliver begs leave to present his latest production entitled Itinerary of the Water of the Los Angeles Aqueduct” in language redolent of early film advertisements. It’s no surprise that movies would be on the minds of these men—1915 also saw the release of the first real Hollywood blockbuster, D.W. Griffith’s The Birth of a Nation, which was filmed in Southern California and announced the arrival of a new local industry with national and eventually global aspirations. The destination of Frick and Oliver’s film expedition—the iconic rural western landscape of the Owens Valley and towering eastern Sierra Nevada—would become the setting for hundreds of films and commercials. The town of Lone Pine now has a film festival dedicated to this local canon.

But what about the silent star of this photo album, the aqueduct itself? This record of Frick and Oliver’s adventure suggests that they were fascinated with this great feat of engineering. The album has the air of a visit to the Great Pyramids or some other wonder of the world. Their snapshots try to do justice to the monumental architecture of this earth-changing and city-building technology. But there is also a playful, sometimes ironic tone to the whole thing, especially in the final shot, captioned “the Slacker using the water.” The photo shows Oliver’s niece Lillian watering their lawn in Hollywood, seemingly unaware of the epic effort that enabled water to flow from the hose in her hand.

Mr. Oliver begs leave to present his latest production entitled Itinerary of the Water of the Los Angeles Aqueduct.

You can see the full photo album–and hear “The Little Ford”–over here.

And visit the new Los Angeles Aqueduct Digital Platform to explore the archives yourself.


“The Los Angeles Aqueduct” photo album courtesy of the Huntington Library, San Marino, California. Boom would like to thank Steven Keylon, Patrick L. Jones, Christina Rice, Rory Coleman Mitchell, and Ann Campbell for helping us fill in some of the details of Oliver and Frick’s story after we posted a photograph on Facebook asking for information about the home at 1837 Canyon Drive.


Camera Obscura

by William Fox

From Boom Fall 2013, Vol. 3, No. 3

A photographic history of the LA Aqueduct.

The Los Angeles Aqueduct is a product of early twentieth-century engineering, and much of its history has been created through photography, the dominant imaging technology of that century. The connection between the two—the aqueduct and photography—has more metaphorical resonances than are immediately apparent on the surface, resonances that are ironically resurfacing in the twenty-first century through nineteenth-century photographic technology. But, then, nothing is as it seems in many images of the aqueduct and its landscape.

By far and away the most iconic photograph of the LA Aqueduct is one in which it is invisible. Ansel Adams took Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine on a bitterly cold morning in 1944. The portrait of the eastern massif of the Sierra is organized into bands of contrasting light, a shadowed meadow in the foreground behind which a line of sunlit trees demarcates the pasture from the upsloping and dark Alabama Hills. In the background, Mount Williamson and the Mount Whitney group stand wreathed in brilliant snow. In part it is such a successful photograph because it combines the nearby pastoral with the distant sublime, an organization of pictorial space that has been used in painting since the sixteenth century.

The photograph betrays no direct evidence of technology; the only obvious traces of human tinkering are the cleared pasture and the unnaturally rigorous spacing and alignment of the trees. Two elements that actually existed and that would have contradicted this Edenic composition are missing from the photograph. Arrayed on the left-hand hillside of the Alabama Hills were the large letters LP spelled out in whitewashed rocks that stood for Lone Pine. Driving through the town, you can still see the letters, which are refurbished regularly by locals in a ritual familiar to many communities in the Western states. Ansel Adams was so disturbed by what he considered to be an ugly scar in the landscape that he spot-toned out the letters in his prints with a small brush, and in the 1970s finally had them eliminated from the negative itself by his assistant.


Photo at top: Winter Sunrise, Sierra Nevada from Lone Pine, 1944. Photography by Ansel Adams. Courtesy of Collection Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona. Copyright the Ansel Adams Publishing Rights Trust.


Mono Craters and June Lake

by Valerie P. Cohen

From Boom Fall 2013, Vol. 3, No. 3

Excerpts from A Summer Journal.

boom-2013-3-3-78-f031My cabin sits on a small plateau in the Eastern Sierra of California, above the west end of June Lake, in the upper watershed of the Mono Basin. It is a small wooden cabin, built in the early 1940s. It is inaccessible in winter, but open from late spring until mid fall.

Looking northeast, one sees the lake, then the terminal moraines, the two highest Mono Craters, and sky. The first time I saw the cabin, I didn’t even go inside. I just sat down on the front porch, looked at the landscape, and thought, a view of my own.

By now I have spent more than twenty long summers there and have always vaguely considered painting that scene. Finally, I got around to doing just that—over and over and over at different times of day or night, changing angles of sunlight according to season, snow or rain or wind or fire. This is a certain kind of traveling.

These six paintings are taken from the book Mono Craters and June Lake: A Summer Journal, containing twenty-six watercolors originally painted on Arches 300-pound rough rag paper. Each original is 7 by 9 inches. Click an image below to see a larger version.



All Along the Aqueduct

Photographs by Chad Ress, Center for Social Cohesion, Arizona State University

From Boom Fall 2013, Vol. 3, No. 3

Water is plainly vital to the life of towns and cities alike. It plays a key role in the social life of residents too.

The aqueduct intake near Big Pine in Owens Valley.

Chad Ress, a photographer and fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University, has traveled around the country to document places where people come together. In this photographic essay for Boom, Ress explored the length of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, from its headwaters near Bishop to Los Angeles, to document watery places as gathering spots for communities at either end of the system. While water is plainly vital to the life of towns and cities alike, it also plays a key role in the social life of residents.

The first day of fishing season at Crowley Lake. Twenty five miles north of Bishop, in Mono County, the lake is the largest reservoir on the Los Angeles Aqueduct system, formed by the Long Valley Dam in 1941. The lake’s fishing concession is run in cooperation with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

Swim meet, Expo Center. The Los Angeles Aqueduct terminates at a filtration plant in Sylmar. From there, the water flows to a small reservoir before getting mixed into the city water distribution system, and on to customers’ taps, city drinking fountains, and pools like this.


Help Us Solve a Mystery?

Photo courtesy of The Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif.

Calling all Los Angeles neighborhood connoisseurs, local historians, and amateur detectives!

Where was this photo taken?

While working on our fall issue, which will focus on the 100th anniversary of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, we uncovered a curious photo album about the aqueduct at the Huntington Library. The album ends with this neat photograph of a woman watering her lawn at 1837 Canyon Drive in 1915. But which Canyon Drive? Can you help us pin this photograph to a map? We’d like to rephotograph the site for our fall issue.

Here’s another clue: The photo album features two men, W. H. Frick and J. G. Oliver, who took a car trip along the L.A. Aqueduct just two years after its construction. We think it’s an interesting early example of the evolving attitude of Angelenos toward water, the southern California landscape, car culture, travel and tourism, photography, and even movies, but we’re thirsty for more information. Do you know where in the Los Angeles area we can find this 1837 Canyon Drive? Do you have any idea who W. H. Frick and J. G. Oliver were, or the woman, who is identified only as “the Slacker,” who is “using the water” that came all the way from Owens Valley to water her lawn? Help us crack the case!

Leave a reply here or send editor Jon Christensen an email. See our contact page for his email address. Please let us know what your evidence is, and when we track down the address and re-photograph the site, you’ll get credit here on our blog and in print for helping us solve this mystery!

UPDATE: Mystery solved — and a family member revealed!

Thanks to our readers, we’ve been able to figure out a lot about 1837 Canyon Drive, the aqueduct explorers, and the “Slacker” watering her lawn. The home was in Hollywood, but has since been demolished and replaced with a modern apartment building. W. H. Frick and J. G. Oliver are William Henry Frick and Julius Goodwin Oliver, and the woman watering her lawn is Oliver’s niece, Lillian, who lived with him. And most exciting of all, Ann Campbell, a relative of Oliver and Frick, heard about our search and reached out to us. She has allowed us to share some of her family photographs, including the one above.

Watch for our Fall 2013 issue of Boom, when we will tell more about their photographic expedition and publish the full photo album online!

Annie Powers