I took the photo above many years ago. It was, back then, one of my favorite areas in LA. It was a forgotten area with empty, industrial buildings and heaps of dead machinery, fences half standing, half falling over, and a mighty bridge spanning the LA river, the 6th Street bridge. It was an area where iron went to rust, the industrial era version of an elephant cemetery.
Since then, the area has been heavily gentrified and is now called the “Arts District”. Old buildings have been restored, and many new ones have sprung up. Hip cafes attract artsy crowds who also parade the blooming luxury shops. Super-sized artists workshops with aircraft carrier-sized workspaces and window fronts ooze the feel of Vogue Living cover pages that real artists could never afford, but the well-heeled daddy’s girls and mama’s boys can. Their only real problem is to find a business card large enough to fit their titles on: writer-director-producer-actor-photographer-filmmaker.
A great city location is as natural as a great landscape. It follows a grander scheme – the laws of nature – which lies beyond human intent.
I no longer photograph there. Back then, you could just go there without a permit and shoot, because nobody was ever there. It was a place as natural as any landscape out there in the wild. Now you can still go for a nice stroll and because it all looks now like a gigantic stage decoration, it feels relaxing. And you can choose out of a dozen latte flavors.
After a while you want to leave. A little while later, you need to leave, and if someone would hold you back, you’d fight your way out of that real life movie set. You want a city landscape that is real, not photoshopped by developers.
A good location has history. And it has chance. It follows complex laws of nature that brings about the buildings and sidewalks, inhabitants and fences and benches and parks.
A great location has history, that has put layer upon layer to make for a great interaction with the performers of the story.
It’s just like a real landscape that is put together by the laws of nature, which makes it so dramatic and astounding and full of surprises. A true city location is to a developer smoothed area what a wild and beautiful landscape of nature is to a park.
A real landscape, like a real area of a city, follows the grander scheme of the law of nature. It does not show intent. It is a complex mystery, and this is what makes it a great location, background, and a character to be a part of a great story.
A great location is natural like the wild – even in cities.
A naturally grown and formed landscape and city will give the background for a great story, for big emotions, and captivating characters, as they are always seen not just as themselves, but as interacting with their surroundings. And this is what any fashion company should look for in their stories.