LA Look

Highlighting the multifaceted nature of a city where image reigns supreme, Niccolò Morgan Gandolfi's series presents LA as both itself and its opposite.



The "LA Look" is an expression that appeared in the early 1960s referring to a set of attitudes and trends that characterise the city. The "look" of Los Angeles is a mix of kitsch and elegance; bright sunshine and film-noir charm; surfers, art, car culture and deserts as far as the eye can see.

This immensely pregnant expression highlights the multifaceted nature of Los Angeles, a city where image reigns supreme. The photographic work presented in this series begins with an analysis of the city's myriad scenarios, where reality and fiction, clichés and novelty coexist: Los Angeles is both itself and its opposite. The icons and symbols of Los Angeles, from its palm trees to its endless freeways, are a constant presence for those attempting to describe the city. This project positions itself in the space between LA's reality and our collective imagination of it. Photographing tracts of "urban nature", for example, offers a chance to portray a kind of nature that fragments the city's rigid structure, or, in the words of anthropologist and urban theorist Mike Davis, that creates "a strange choreography of the wild and the urban". Southern California's favourable climate allows plants to grow virtually anywhere. Palm trees sprout up from drainage ditches, or from cracks in the concrete where a little water can collect. Aspects are found alongside their opposites. Nature tamed and nature unbridled.

The lush greenery of the Botanical Gardens presents a complete change of scenery, where different worlds coexist in the same place, making us forget that Los Angeles grew out of the desert.

According to David James, artists who take on Los Angeles do so as if they were film directors. They transform images of the city into a narrative that inevitably has to reckon with its essence and its mythology, with cinema and an architecture made up of empty spaces, and, of course, with fiction. Similarly, these images have to deal with the city's multiple dimensions, keeping in mind that there are always two ways to photograph Los Angeles: one way, and its opposite. Alessandra Prandin, Niccolò Morgan Gandolfi

Top: January 2010, Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, US. The 26-km-long Wilshire Blvd is one of the city’s main arteries. Beginning at the beach in Santa Monica, it crosses the city on its way Downtown, passing through such contrasting neighbourhoods as Koreatown and Beverly Hills. The boulevard is a principle axis in LA, dividing the roads crossing over it into north and south. Above: December 2009, South La Cienega Blvd, Inglewood, CA, US. A few miles from the airport (LAX), driving towards the city, one encounters a vast area alternating between oil wells and residential areas. The Inglewood Oil Field occupies almost a 1,000 acres, making it one of the largest urban oil fields in the United States. Today, the area is the focus of many landscaping improvement projects

Niccolò Morgan Gandolfi was born in Washington, D.C. He studied visual arts in Milan and Venice (IUAV). In 2009 he completed his doctorate with a photographic project titled Aesthetics of Survival. His work has been included in many exhibitions and has received numerous awards.

March 2010, Santa Ana Fwy, Route 101, Downtown Los Angeles, CA, US. Route 101, also known as “El Camino Real” and, in the distance, Rafael Moneo’s Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels. In the foreground, huge specimens of Ficus microcarpa, an Asian species that was introduced to Los Angeles in the 1950s and currently represents 9% of the trees lining the city’s streets

February 2010, Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden, UCLA, Westwood, CA, US. The Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden is part of the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and was created with the intention of supporting students’ field research in botany. Situated in the town of Westwood, the garden has over 3,500 species of plants from euphorbs and cacti to subtropical and native Californian species

March 2010, Los Angeles River, Glendale, CA, US. The Los Angeles River was the primary source of water for the natives of the basin. The river’s unpredictably torrential character, along with the flood of 1938, led to the decision to line its banks and bed almost entirely with concrete to create a flood control channel

December 2009, North Fairfax Ave, West Hollywood, CA, US. According to estimates by the Los Angeles Times, the city is leading the US in terms of the number of vacant lots. These scraps of land only come to life as the holidays approach, becoming open markets for pumpkins at Halloween or Christmas trees in December

December 2009, North Fairfax Ave, West Hollywood, CA, US

February 2010, Mildred E. Mathias Botanical Garden, UCLA, Westwood, CA, US