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Night Shots: John Brian King's Photos of 1980s Los Angeles

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LAX in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
LAX in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.

The following is an excerpt from the photography book "LAX: Photographs of Los Angeles 1980-84" by John Brian King, being released November 2, and available for pre-order at spurleditions.com.

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, near the airport, in a neighborhood called Westchester; it was blank and empty, a physical landscape of concrete and an aural landscape of jetliner noise. Aeronautics was omnipresent in my childhood: I lived on a street called Flight, I went to Orville Wright Junior High School, and my father worked as an engineer on the B-52 bomber and the Space Shuttle. My visits to the airport were limited to dropping off and picking up my parents' friends and relatives -- we lived close, after all, and they could park at our house for free.

I left Westchester at the age of seventeen, but I often returned to shoot photographs of people at the airport (the "LAX" section of this book). I rode a motorcycle (I had a couple of secret spots to park my bike) and mostly shot at night before going to late-night punk shows in Chinatown, Hollywood or the South Bay. I consciously went for an assaultive form of photography -- flash, wide-angle lens, hit and run, no permission asked.

I went to art school thirty miles north of Los Angeles. My favorite teachers were photographers Jo Ann Callis, Judy Fiskin and John Divola; conceptual artists John Baldessari, Michael Asher and Douglas Huebler; and poet-translator Richard Howard. It was a fortunate time in my life.

After finishing school I lived in the Fairfax District of Los Angeles and worked at Carnation Milk. I bought a beautiful piece of machinery, the brutalist Pentax 6x7 camera, and took photos of Los Angeles at night (the "L.A." section of this book). Avoiding people, I imagined myself as an archaeologist who had landed amid the bizarre debris of a dying culture. (I was also influenced by one of my favorite childhood movies, "The Omega Man," with its images of an empty apocalyptic Los Angeles.)

Then the negatives sat in a box for thirty years. I gave up photography and did other things: writing, design, filmmaking.

But recently I made a feature film called "Redlands," which was about the relationship between a young female model and an older male photographer, and even though the film was (among other things) a critical look at the genre of "glamour photography," I realized I missed taking pictures.

So I have picked up the camera again. I am now shooting digitally and in color, but my aesthetic, as evidenced by the photographs in this book, remains the same.

-- John Brian King

LAX in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
LAX in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
LAX in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
LAX in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
LAX in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
LAX in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
LAX in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
LAX in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
LAX in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
LAX in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.
Los Angeles in the 1980s. | Photo: John Brian King.


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