Renewed Topographics

Those of us who are from Los Angeles are lucky enough that several of the photographs in New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape are in fact our very own man-altered landscape. While the likes of John Schott, Joe Deal, and Nicholas Nixon were out investigating motels along Route 66, scaling hillsides in Albuquerque, and hauling 8×10 cameras to the umpteenth floor in Boston skyscrapers, respectively, Lewis Baltz, Frank Gohlke, and Henry Wessel were making photographic history with the landscapes of Los Angeles and Orange County.

I happened to be in Irvine last week and got the notion to seek out some of the locations that Lewis Baltz shot for his series The New Industrial Parks Near Irvine, California, which are on view in New Topographics. Baltz titled his photos with addresses, so these locations weren’t so hard to find. Some of the buildings, however, had apparently been digested into the maw of Irvine’s vast expanse of business complexes. Out of nine locations I visited, I only found three of the buildings seen in four of Baltz’s photographs.

Left: Lewis Baltz, North Wall, Semicoa, 333 McCormick, Costa Mesa, 1974. Right: Semicoa today, with fewer trees and conspicuously missing that eclectic logo of yesteryear.

Left: Lewis Baltz, Southeast Corner, Semicoa, 333 McCormick, Costa Mesa, 1974 Right: Another angle of Semicoa today. They fortified their gate and built a ladder to the roof!

Left: Lewis Baltz, East Wall, Business Systems Division, Pertec, 1881 Langley, Santa Ana, 1974. Right: Today it’s Concept Development, Inc.—and that’s grime clouding the windows.

Left: Lewis Baltz, South Wall, Unoccupied Industrial Structure, 16812 Milliken, Irvine, 1974. Right: Industrial Structure today, now occupied, and with a fence nearby.

I’m not the only one being clever like this, however—Britt Salvesen, curator of the present incarnation of New Topographics, also got an email from photographer Brian English reporting that he had visited the location of Frank Gohlke’s photograph Landscape, Los Angeles, 1974, at North Hollywood Way and West Clark Avenue in Burbank. And to put the icing on the cake, he just happened to catch a 1970’s Plymouth Gold Duster tooling by as well!

Left: Frank Gohlke, Landscape, Los Angeles, 1974. Right: Photograph by Brian English.

So—how about a challenge? Take a look at the photographs by Frank Gohlke and Henry Wessel below. Do you know where in Los Angeles these were taken? Leave a comment if you know the street intersection—or take a picture yourself and give us the link. Happy hunting!

Frank Gohlke, Landscape, Los Angeles, 1974

Henry Wessel, Jr., Hollywood, 1972

PS don’t forget about our weekly New Topographics tours; Shannon Ebner will be leading a tour this Sunday.

Sarah Bay Williams, Ralph M. Parsons Fellow, Wallis Annenberg Photography Department

8 Responses to Renewed Topographics

  1. That’s so cool to see the past and present side by side within decades counted on one hand!

  2. Michael says:

    Henry Wessel, Jr., photo — at the corner of De Longpre Avenue + Gower

  3. ArtsCurator says:

    I’m going to take a guess that the The Heny Wessel 1972 is on the side of Paramount Studios off Gower & Melrose?

  4. Ki. says:

    Frank Gohlke, Fairfax/8th?

  5. Kat says:

    I’m guessing that the 74 photo is on the west side of Bunker Hill. How’s that for vague?

  6. Gazpachot says:

    What a long way we have(‘nt) come… fascinating comparisons.

  7. Sue says:

    Frank Gohlke’s photo is at the Metro stop area on 4th St/S Hill St (across from the Grand Central Market)

    Henry Wessel, Jr.’s photo looks to be what is now Sunset Gower Studios on N Gower St/De Longpre Ave

    Am I correct? Do I win anything? 😀 haha jk

  8. I’m pretty sure Gohlke’s is taken from Olive and 4th. There’s a big escalator and a park there now. The escalator leads up to the fountain.

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