The 5

By Curtis Stage

Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your contribution.
Curtis Stage: For the last few years, I have been interested in photographing landscape and architecture in hidden urban pockets around the Los Angeles and Orange County area. For the series, The 5  (Between Washington & Valley View), I have been roaming an eight-mile stretch that hugs the east side of the Interstate 5 Freeway in the transit between LA and Orange counties. Thousands of travelers use this route daily, but few know or care what happens off the eleven main exits that feed into these zones.
       These are mostly industrial non-places where we don’t see ourselves. They are transitional in that they are areas to manufacture products and ship them out. When you drive or walk in these spaces, you literally feel lost and disoriented–streets and landmarks don’t function the way they do in the neighborhoods sometimes just a few blocks away. These are deliberately uninteresting, bland places–maybe to conceal what happens inside. The companies that occupy the buildings are not at all interested in beautifying the surroundings, and mostly everything feels like a dreamy wasteland… Not close to the image of Southern California that dominates our vision.
       Every once in a while, there is a revolt. People need little moments of beauty in their human-shaped landscapes. So, mixed in with the desolation, trash and decay are odd monuments of aesthetic style. Most of the time these are collisions of highly manicured plants and racing stripe style wall paintings that are clearly inspired by the need to upend the overwhelming ugliness.

AM: What inspires you most?
CS: In this series, you will see a few photographic selections that capture the spirit of “New Topographics” photographers of the 1970’s, whose themes explored the beautiful in the banal of newly formed communities in the western US, while railing against norms of traditional landscape photography.
       I am inspired by ways in which photography can structurally reference principles of design and painting. I like how a frame of a picture can organize information.

AM: What else can we expect to see from you?
CS: I may pick another freeway! Maybe at night. Could be scary!

Curtis Stage is a Los Angeles based artist, photographer, designer, and director of a multimedia arts program at one of the Los Angeles City Colleges. You can find more of his work at and on Instagram.

Posted on May 28, 2015 .