Posts tagged landscape photography


Image Collage: credits for photos are as shown in this post.

This is the second part of my coverage of Perceptions of the Los Angeles River, which is a photography exhibition by AHBE colleagues and friends. See part one for an introduction and a selection of photographs from the collection. I chose another set for this week and share the story behind each work, as told by the individual photographer.

credit: “James” by Andrea Klein

photo by Calvin R. Abe

Title of Work: “James”
Photographer: Andrea Klein (shown at right)
Artist’s Statement:  James is a plein air painter who I met while visiting the Los Angeles River in Glendale Narrows. He was focused on a landscape scene on the opposite bank of the river. Although people, like myself, stopped to chat with him, he remained single minded in capturing the view on his canvas. As I looked over his shoulder, I realized my attention was not focused on his painting but on his act of interpreting the context of the river. I took my photo at that moment of realization. I removed the image’s color component to draw the focus away from his canvas and underscore the moment of observation and perception.


credit: “Emergence” by Jessica Roberts

photo by Sahar Coston-Hardy

Title of Work: “Emergence”
Photographer: Jessica Roberts (shown at right)
Artist’s Statement:  I wrote at length about “Emergence” in an earlier post and share my thoughts again in this synopsis. By dividing the picture plane evenly in two, I hope viewers will focus on the horizon line and interpret its meaning in relationship to everything else they observe. The horizon line is a visual component that gives perspective to a landscape, and its quality is arguably the most defining element of a place.

Being in the LA River reminds me of being out in the middle of a desert, except sunken down further into the earth. The experience is different from the layered nature of a forest or the density of buildings in a city. The sensation can feel as disorienting and isolating as standing in the middle of a prairie, without even the sway of the grasses to distract attention. It is an uncommon urban experience.

credit: “iAguas!” by Darren Shirai

photo by Sahar Coston-Hardy

Title of Work: “iAguas!”
Photographer: Darren Shirai (shown at right)
Artist’s Statement:  The word aguas can mean different things in Mexican Spanish. It can mean ‘waters’, as seen flowing in the river channel on the right side of my photo or used as a warning in situations like the scene depicted on the left, where its meaning in American English is “Watch it!” or “Heads up!”.

Like the word aguas, this photo has a double meaning that conveys my perception of the Los Angeles River. I captured this “LA moment” along a stretch of the river in the Glendale Narrows. It represents the promise of an optimistic future where the river corridor and the landscape along it banks revitalize and reconnect people and communities – spiritually, socially, ecologically and economically. However, this scene also reminds me of the need for vigilance when our profession assesses the broader contextual impacts of a proposed landscape design, and the integrity required to creatively overcome impending design challenges in equitable and meaningful ways. iAguas!

credit: “Weedy Foreground” by Jenni Zell

photo by Sahar Coston-Hardy

Title of Work: “Weedy Foreground”
Photographer: Jenni Zell (shown at right) 
Artist’s Statement:  I took this photo in the channel of the Los Angeles River and was initially captivated by the audacity of this species to set up life in such a hostile place. Positioning my camera with plants in the foreground and middle ground creates the illusion of a future takeover of vegetative growth in the channel of the Los Angeles River. Takeover is unlikely, and the species pictured in the foreground is Plantago lanceolate, a noxious invasive plant. At closer inspection, Weedy Foreground crushes any dreamy vision of a restored native riparian landscape and instead predicts a future where only the most noxious and invasive species survive.


Perceptions of the Los Angeles River features the works of: Calvin Abe, Cristhian Barajas, Wendy Chan, Chuan Ding, Andrea Klein, Clarence Lacy, Brett Miller, Susan Miller, Jessica Roberts, Jennifer Salazar, Darren Shirai, Morgan Thompson, Yiran Wang, Mateo Yang, and Jenni Zell. You may recognize some of the names as regular contributors to AHBE Lab. The LA River is a subject of ongoing research and exploration for our staff, many of whom share their thoughts and discoveries through AHBE Lab.

Image by AHBE Landscape Architects

Perceptions of the Los Angeles River is a group exhibition featuring photographs by Calvin Abe, Cristhian Barajas, Wendy Chan, Chuan Ding, Andrea Klein, Clarence Lacy, Brett Miller, Susan Miller, Jessica Roberts, Jennifer Salazar, Darren Shirai, Morgan Thompson, Yiran Wang, Mateo Yang, and Jennifer Zell. On view at AHBE’s design studio, the collection conveys our photographers’ multiple points of view about the Los Angeles River’s identity and sense of place. Through their work, they challenge viewers to think about the LA River in ways they did not imagine.

Landscape architect, Wendy Chan, came up with the exhibition’s concept theme and curated the show. As she describes,

“Each participant was asked to submit a photo representing his or her perception of the L.A. River. As we started to lay out the photos in our gallery space, we were fascinated by the range and diversity of the images. A few photographers captured the river as a beautiful art piece. Some people focused on the river’s wildlife and habitats. Others explored its urban context and role as urban infrastructure. Interactions between people and animals resulted in a surprising scene of disruption in one work and peaceful serenity in another. Overall, the collection truly represents how the L.A. River inspires beauty, dreams, and possibilities for Angelenos.” – Wendy Chan

A selection of images from the exhibition are presented here.


Title of Work: “Layers”
Photographer: Wendy Chan 
Artist’s Statement:  My photograph was taken at the North Broadway Bridge, in the neighborhood of Lincoln Heights. When I was a child, I would cross the North Broadway Bridge frequently on my way to Chinatown and observed the river’s seasonal transformations from a trickling stream to a powerful torrent. Although the river was visually close from where I stood, getting to it was difficult. I felt the river was a world away. My photograph represents the multiple layers of roadway, fencing, railroad tracks, and walls blocking my access to nature within my city.


Title of Work:  “Do you feel the river tonight?”
Photographer: Chuan Ding 
Artist’s Statement:   

Nobody knows Los Angeles without knowing its river.” – Joan Didion

However, nobody truly knows the LA River without seeing it at night. When the sun goes down and the last light of day gives way to the night, the river and city take on an amazing filtered quality. Walking along the 7th Street Bridge on a winter night in 2017, I paused to admire the scene. In my mind’s eye, night turns down the city’s heat, chaos, and noise. Layers of railroad tracks were lined up in front of me; empty trains moved back and forth as tracks and rail cars were tested after-hours. Ahead, the glory of downtown shined and then faded away. Time seemed frozen. All I felt at that moment was the night, myself and the LA River, which became the witness to my love story.


Title of Work:  “Break”
Photographer: Clarence Lacy 
Artist’s Statement: As I traveled all along the lower portion of the Los Angeles River, I discovered spaces created by various planes of concrete. The multiple grounds are perfect settings for observing the play of light and shadows. At one point, I remember feeling as if I was in a middle ground, standing one plane above the base of the river but below the surrounding city. I was inspired by the overwhelming scale and its beauty.

BREAKby Clarence Lacy

This river does not feel urban.
I look up, I don’t see a city;
a blue expanse disorients me.

Where am I?

An altered state of urbanity,
strolling on foot,
along the river bottom.

A break in the expanse;
a hint of a city around.

I feel enclosed, not trapped.
This is only a short break.


Featured photographers (left to right, above): Chuan Ding, Clarence Lacy, Wendy Chan. Photos by Linda Daley.

Perceptions of the Los Angeles River is on view, for a limited time, inside the AHBE studio.


All photos: Gregory Han

All photos: Gregory Han

Sixteen and a half hours is a long to time to be confined to a single seat, especially if the flight is for purposes of business, not leisure. A  person’s patience, alongside the fortitude of their bladder and their endurance for humanity in close proximity are all tested in the span of such a flight. Yet there I was, flying across the globe, crammed into the corner of a window seat, burrowing into the 14° incline seating like a rodent readying for hibernation, each attempt to find a comfortable position unfulfilled. It was the promise of exploring the Middle East for the first time that allowed coach fare discomforts to be endured.

Several single serving meals and not-so-critically-acclaimed films later, I landed in Dubai to attend Dubai Design Week. I unraveled my spine first, then turned to do the same with the city before me, a metropolis still very much in the midst of creating its own identity and history in parallel.


The surrealism of Dubai is immediate – a gigantic Sim City development of competing corporate egos materialized into high rise forms. Edifices of metal and glass jut obscenely erect against the hazy-sandy canvas of a true desert sky, some notably unique, the majority indistinct. Their placement were planned years advance, but their presence seems to communicate a perpetual state of “…to be continued” in the sum of a city. The saline-perfumed Persian Gulf is temptingly nearby, but often forgotten, as if the city’s planners deemed the natural landscape insufficient an expression of their wealth and dreams, the haze of sand and urban pollution obscuring the view for miles. The sprawl of artifice this city lays out before the eyes an urban statement makes Los Angeles seem downright undeveloped country in comparison!


At 125 floors above ground level, you might expect to feel dizzy or discombobulated. Instead, I found a strong desire to pinch to zoom.

Dubai is in beta stage, with countless experiments in the realm of architecture, landscape design, and infrastructure unfolding concurrently. Things happen here in real time, visibly and invisibly. One moment, I was surveying enormous construction vehicles slumbering across a dry canal bed from my hotel window; the next morning the same canal was opened with zero fanfare, with millions of gallons of sea water passing through the newly constructed thoroughfare where hours before wheels tracked across it (the canals were designed for solar-powered shipping boats). Where other cities plan, Dubai executes.

A scale model of Dubai Creek Harbour, currently being constructed. Upon completion, the development will be three times the size of Downtown Dubai and include the world’s tallest twin towers, alongside eight million square feet of retail space, 39,000 residential units, 3,664 office units, and 22 hotels with 4,400 rooms.

A scale model of Dubai Creek Harbour, currently being constructed. Upon completion, the development will be three times the size of Downtown Dubai and include the world’s tallest twin towers, alongside eight million square feet of retail space, 39,000 residential units, 3,664 office units, and 22 hotels with 4,400 rooms.

Later that same day, I was rocketing upward on an elevator traveling at 3 floors per second up to the highest observation deck inside the tallest building in the world. At 124-125 floors up the landscape below takes on a whole new persona, one more akin to computer game simulation or real time strategy level rather than the reality of life unfolding below. The urban landscape of yet-to-be-finished developments, sprawling shopping centers, checkerboards of pools glistening aqua, and large squares and strips of lands still left barren, all intersected by freeways as busy as Los Angeles and trains as perfunctory as Paris are revealed. The view is so unrealistic, the mind is lulled into disbelief rather than vertigo.

As the sun began to set, the desert landscape ignited in a spectacular display of reds, oranges, and yellows.

As the sun began to set, the desert landscape ignited in a spectacular display of reds, oranges, and yellows.

Only a few days later I was boarding onto an Emirates flight to make the same 8,000+ mile trip back to Los Angeles. Besides the complete open row of seats – the best surprise ever – I found one last surprise awaited.

About a half an hour into the flight a desert landscape never seen before revealed itself below – an arid realm I had only seen in science fiction movies…or dreams. The land appeared shaped by the nocturnal kicking of once slumbering, long forgotten titans, like bedding kicked into folds and piles. A range of mountains, dunes, and other indescribable geological formations stretched for hundreds of miles without the sight of habitation.

“Where am I?!”

I was flying over Iran – the modern lands of the ancient Persian Empire.

In realizing the plane was traveling over a country I was very unlikely ever to set foot upon in my lifetime, a tingle of excitement shot through my body. I was flying over a forbidden landscape, and everything laid before me was stunning. For those several minutes, with nose pressed against glass, my coach fare felt like first class.

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