LOOK3 Guest Series: Visiting Los Angeles

In the LOOK3 series Peter Earl McCollough is documenting his year working with the M9. You can read his posts here.

I’ve always thought of America as the teenager of the world. And if you roll with that frame of thought, then Los Angeles would be comparable to the cool kid in high school that didn’t care about education, drove a fast car and was headed straight for a quarter life crisis. Yet I really love Los Angeles. Let me rephrase that: I really love visiting Los Angeles. Throughout my teenage years I made frequent summer trips to LA. Two-week stretches accompanying family on business trips. My mother would spend most of her time in the hotel room and told me not to leave Santa Monica and Venice Beach. I quickly learned the bus routes and soon was exploring Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and other unsanctioned neighborhoods. Back then (1996-1999) I had a red point-and-shoot camera and I knew nothing about photography. I took pictures only so I could remember, validate my experience or process what I was seeing. As a teenager from Sacramento (with fairly strict parents), sneaking through the city with a camera was like being on a drug; it was a mad barrage of experiences like nothing I had ever experienced, and most of which I was unable to comprehend. When I visit LA now, it still feels that way.

Recently some friends and I took a weekend trip from San Francisco to LA to attend a 20th anniversary party for David Lynch’s seminal ’90s TV series Twin Peaks at the appropriately creepy-campy Clifton’s Cafeteria. It was good to get out of San Francisco for a bit and revel in the LA light. I spent a Saturday afternoon walking around Hollywood taking photos. No matter how many times I’m there, it is always a bizarre experience. And it’s particularly bizarre after living in San Francisco (which you could fairly describe as the antithesis of LA). I am drawn to the city today just as I was drawn to it when I was younger. But now, along with a deeper vision that comes with age and education, I’m able to retrace and revisit the additional layer of a particular time in my youth, a time when I was so excited and naive about photography that every place I went the light felt like gold and a photograph was to be discovered.

After talking to my friends about the city, what struck me the most about Hollywood was its immense  facade, which in many ways is the social currency of Southern California. The heart of LA, after all, are the movie studios. An empire built on fiction and dreams. Even the city itself was conjured out of the desert, like a trick of magic. Appearances and impressions play an important role here and like mirages, are not what they seem. For me, the city itself is an obscene dream. A convoluted script unraveling block by block, scene by scene. Its characters ridiculous, emotionally disproportionate yet enticing. Every time I’m there, I’m anxious to leave and every time I leave I can’t wait to go back to take more pictures.

-Peter Earl McCollough

Peter Earl McCollough was born in Billings, Montana, in 1982 and grew up in Davis, California. Shortly after turning 18, he enlisted in the United States Marine Corps where he served from 2000-2004. After being honorably discharged he began studying photography in Sacramento. In 2008, after transferring to Ohio University, he received a Bachelor of Science in Visual Communication with an emphasis in Photojournalism.

He is currently a freelance photographer and aspiring cinematographer based in San Francisco. In his off time he likes to paint, especially watercolors, and work on his street photography. More photos can be seen on his website:http://www.petermccollough.com/.