Monday, September 3, 2012

On Shooting Street Style in Los Angeles

I love L.A. for some of the same reasons so many East Coasters and Europeans hate it. It is a city of images, of massive billboards dominating the skyline, advertisements crawling up the sides of buildings. It is a city of surfaces, of flawless skin and photo retouching, where magazines are available on every street corner and book stores few and far between. And it is a city of fictions, a city that believes its own hype, where fantasy continually bleeds into reality. Angelenos have a hard time telling the real city they live in from the mythologies they construct around it. That's why there's so much gridlock every year in the late fall when the first rainstorms hit. No one can seem to remember from year to year that it rains in L.A. Newscasters express genuine shock. People pull their cars over to the side of the road. Rain just doesn't fit the image of L.A. What is one supposed to do with it?

Los Angeles, of course, is full of beautiful people. The genetically advantaged from all over the country and beyond flock to L.A. to seek fame and adoration. L.A. has stocked its ponds for easy fishing. This does not, however, mean that L.A. is an easy place to shoot street style. For one, L.A., as previously mentioned, is almost aggressively casual. Dressing down in L.A. is a form of dressing up. It represents a superior social position, where one doesn't need to impress others to demonstrate their social worth. Wear a baseball cap and a beard to an upscale restaurant and people assume you're a director or a producer. Wear a suit and people assume you're a suck up. So most Angelenos wear T-shirts and shorts on almost all occasions. They tend to fit well, but they tend also to not lend themselves to interesting photos. 

And then, of course, there's the whole problem with L.A. not really being a pedestrian's town. It's a cliché, but nonetheless true: people don't walk that much in L.A., which makes recording street style rather difficult. Even on the sidewalks I could see that the coolest people were enclosed in cars. This gives street style a whole new meaning, but it slows down the process of taking pictures. Perhaps this is why so many L.A. style websites are shot at parties. Those are places people gather. The streets, not so much.

Throughout my time in L.A. I kept just missing people, almost catching people as they made their way from store to car or car to restaurant. I was left with impressions rather than proofs, a city of silhouettes. I'm beginning to understand that while style happens everywhere, street style is more about some cities than others. Next stop, the even less probable street style destination of Sacramento, California, my hometown. Stay tuned to find out how that goes. 

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