Thursday, December 24, 2009

East of West LA, by Kevin McCollister

East of West LA
Selected Photographs
by Kevin McCollister

If Pub
Los Angeles

ISBN: 0-9674720-6-7
Paper. 60 pages. $20.00

[click to enlarge]

I’d been following Kevin’s blog and admiring his photographs of Los Angeles for quite some time when he announced the forthcoming publication of his first book, East of West LA. As a spin through his archive shows, Kevin is very generous with his work. That’s one reason I wanted this book: my purchase is a way of thanking him for his effort and care, and for all the hours he spends walking the streets of Los Angeles, a city that, despite its renown, still harbors more secrets than starlets. I also wanted his book because his pictures are so good — both as documents of a place easily trivialized and often misunderstood, and as a physical record of an artist’s life and outlook, the latter underscored in an excerpt from one of the author’s poems, “As Real As Sunlight,” shared in publisher Brooks Roddan’s Foreword:

          I don’t want to be
          the guy who smugly hates the world
          although I frequently am so I walk
          north to simply see myself as here,
          on these streets and seeing myself
          as here is often enough, an
          antidote to fear and restlessness,
          especially if the street is—
          let’s face it—ugly but that’s
          too much about thinking
          and not enough about walking.

In East of West LA, Kevin McCollister captures a Los Angeles lined by mean streets and populated by people often down on their luck. It is an after-hours kind of book, to be examined alone in a room lit by a single lamp. Eerie landmarks, idle taco trucks, empty tables and chairs after a party, diners at closing time, Mexican musicians, the homeless and disenfranchised, a tiny crucified Jesus down from his cross in the grass of someone’s backyard — these images remind us that life goes on with us or without, each at our peril, and yet, what a glory it is to be here and witness it all.

The book is beautifully printed on heavy matte stock. The darkness of many of the photos make its study an intimate experience. Some shots, though, most notably the black-and-whites of landmarks, are cinematic in scope. McCollister’s vertical photo of a pier in Santa Monica under brooding clouds is worthy of The Grapes of Wrath — this, in a volume that measures slightly less than six by eight inches.

To bring home these kinds of pictures, the photographer must put himself physically and emotionally at risk. That is the source of their wisdom.

Recently Linked: A friendly welcome to Miemie, who nearly slipped in under the radar with her imageless profile when she signed on as a follower of Recently Banned Literature. The same goes for ayala.juana, who has been lurking in the shadows for an undetermined time. Thank you both.


-K- said...


Even tho I wouldn't have thought it possible, my appreciation for my own book has just climbed several notches.

Thank you.

William Michaelian said...

You’re very welcome. East of West LA a book you can and should be proud of. And as a book, it has a life of its own. I think you’ll find that it changes over the years, and surprises you when and where you least expect it.