GUTTER 2019Photography, print, book-binding
Los Angeles exists where it does because of the river.
For the first four years after moving here, I didn’t even know we had a river. Most people I talked to while working on this project either didn’t know about it either, or had the misconception that the river was completely manmade. However, the river helped make Los Angeles the largest city in the country.
A major flood in 1938, the most damaging in the history of Los Angeles, prompted the channelization of the river. The concrete channeling took 20 years, three million barrels of concrete, and 10,000 workers to complete. The river was narrowed, straightened, and deepend in order to create what is essentially a 5,000 mile storm drain.
The concrete gutter isn’t just a river or irrigation system, but also home to so much diverse wildlife. Another thing that isn’t really acknowledged is that in the midst of the affordable housing crisis, the river is home to people as well. Because the river, especially in non-residential areas, is generally ignored and overlooked by the public and government officials, the conditions of the river are deteriorating, affecting the ecosystem, biodiversity, and quality of life of the people who call the river their home.
Over the past decade, there have been so many different approaches and plans to restore and revitalize the river. This raises a lot of questions for me: if we’ve been working on it for such a long time, why hasn’t there been any effective solutions yet? Why are a lot of the helpful revitalization programs run by residents and not supported by the county? Will the restoration of the river lead to gentrification? How do we return the river back to its wild roots while still keeping it safe?
In this project, I wanted to explore the usage of the Los Angeles River in different locations, to see how the river is treated and actually being utilized by Angelenos today, and the relationship between the residents in the area and the river itself. The different points of the river that
I ended up exploring are the Glendale Narrows area, the Silverlake and Frogtown area, the Griffith area, and eventually, the Sepulveda Dam. It was one thing to read about the issues surrounding the river, but I really wanted to experience the concrete river first hand and explore the overlooked concrete gutter that is the Los Angeles River.