John Humble’s River photography/”sociological archaeology” on now at the Getty



Headwaters, the Los Angeles River, Confluence of Arroyo Calabasas and Bell Creek, Canoga Park (2001)

“In the late 1990s Humble began documenting the Los Angeles River, charting its 51-mile course from the headlands in Canoga Park to its mouth in Long Beach. Humble seized on the opportunity to journey through what he refers to as the ‘sociological archaeology’ of Los Angeles. Bisecting the city, the river offers a cross section of the demographics of Los Angeles: from homeless people who seek refuge in the storm drains of downtown to working-class immigrants and middle-class suburbanites who live along the banks of this largely concrete channel.”


The Los Angeles River from Main Street, Los Angeles (2001)

“The photograph above succeeds in bringing together several ironic elements: the No Stopping invective, the barricade of barbed wire, and the perfunctory sign confirming that this is the Los Angeles River.

“During the 19th century Los Angeles was among the most productive agricultural counties in the United States because of the abundance of water the river provided. Humble is acutely aware that while the river is responsible for the city’s existence, its presence today is largely ignored.”

The Los Angeles River, Sepulveda Dam Recreation Area (2001)

“This photograph was made at the Balboa Boulevard Bridge in Encino. The view looks from the bridge out to an adjoining recreation area, a bucolic scene portrayed in autumnal colors. Created at sunset, the light bathes the landscape with warm, golden tones.”

Thanks Piotr Orlov!

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