Ode to Los Angeles

By Brooke Nasser


If the road is a parody of human existence, this is the last day on earth. And at the end is El Sereno, the oldest community, where Los Angeles becomes unexpectedly rural. Everything sort of the same sort of different. I imagine the loneliness of dying in such a young city, nude and unpaved.
But there is so much diversity here, so much life in the dirt. Some of us are whispering. Listen.

Everything in Los Angeles is upside down. All the stars have fallen from the sky and the dirt sparkles.

The smog in Los Angeles might be honey and seawater. It might all be so sweet and so nourishing. It doesn't have to be beautiful; it just has to look it.

None of us are aging well.
Dry and sparse and brown.
Even the shadows are parched.
The old ones only come out when it rains, which is rare, when the houselights are down and the spotlight has dimmed. This old man at sunrise sitting at the far end of bench staring at nothing. Still, beautiful. A feast of vacancy.

In the hills, city sounds are muted. Rain falls through metal gutters choking and coughing, a sound like traffic or helicopters or congested restaurants because we gotta make the unfamiliar familiar to exist here. To be calm and rational. To live without chaos. Nature versus nurture in the Age of Technology. And the humming wires scream us to sleep.


Asymmetric Magazine: Tell us about your series.
Brooke Nasser: LA is a lush, messy, complicated city. She is astonishingly photogenic and, at times, utterly heartbreaking. My artistic interest in her in general has been the stark juxtaposition between industry and nature. Nowhere is that more visible than Griffith Park, sitting on top of the commotion of Hollywood and fifteen minutes from burgeoning DTLA.
       Los Angeles is a city worth celebrating, worth spotlighting. She doesn't deserve the one-dimension reputation that she has come to embody.

AM: What inspires you most?
BN: Though I have a car, my preferred method of transportation is foot. It gives me the time and space to really ingest the world around me. Everything is immediate and accessible. I’m inspired by everything. When I’m walking, my eyes are constantly scanning and searching. I like to challenge myself to look at ordinary or overly familiar scenes in unique and surprising ways.

AM: What is your favorite place and/or thing to photograph in Los Angeles?
BN: I have more photographs of Griffith Park than probably anywhere else in Los Angeles. Nature in the heart of LA! It is the largest municipal park with urban wilderness area in the continental United States. It encompasses so many varied climates and landscapes, some of the best cityscapes, and miles and miles of meandering trail. I love that in Griffith Park you can be surrounded by chaparral and wild sage scrub, slopes of extremely rare Nevin’s barberry, and dense Sycamore… And the neon and congestion of Hollywood Boulevard is just 10 minutes away.

AM: What themes do you typically pursue in your work?
BN: Recently, I’ve been interested in the juxtaposition of nature and industry–how they can both complement and detract from one another. The LA River is a perfect example of that dichotomy and I photograph it often: the concretized river that supports five unique micro-ecosystems lined and humming with giant electrical towers. I find it beautiful and messy and incredibly inspiring! I'm definitely following the redesign project very closely.

AM: What came first when you conceptualized this series, the vignettes or the photographs?
BN: With my "Ode to LA" series, the photographs and vignettes happened in tandem. Over the past 11 years, as I grew to adore this city. I found myself constantly butting heads with people whose understanding of LA is very superficial, very one-dimensional. I thought: if I could bolster my descriptions of the amazing places I’ve discovered in the city with photographs, people would be more inclined to look. To re-look. I designed this photo/prose series as a way to encourage a new portrait of Los Angeles.

AM: What can we expect to see from you next?
BN: My next project is a portrait series that examines our ways of seeing by pairing traditional portraits of people with their printed and itemized public library receipts. (I have a huge crush on the LAPL.) We have a crisis of seeing right now: Tensions are high, paranoia is rampant. People are quick to judge, eager to stereotype and discriminate. With my series, I hope to inspire people to re-examine their ways of seeing in a gentle, playful way.
Brooke Nasser was born and raised in Hawaii and moved to Los Angeles in 2004. She earned her B.A. in English from Dartmouth College in 2000 and her M.F.A. in Film Production from USC’s School of Cinematic Arts in 2007. She has been doing freelance journalism as well as commercial and film production for over 10 years. You can find more of her work at brookenasser.com



Visual Minimalism: Portraits & Landscapes