Hipster, homeless, historic: Urban Photography in the 'new' Downtown LA

February 06, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Off the Beaten Path: Downtown Los Angeles

When I moved to Los Angeles 25 years ago, the downtown area, ringed by the 110, 10, 101, and 5 freeways, was neither the city center nor the 'place to be'. If anything, it was to be avoided after dark and unless you worked in city government or within the jewelry, financial, or flower districts, (legal) temptations were few and far between.

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Nokia Theater, Club, and Plaza, LA Live, and the Staples Center changed the look and feel of downtown in less than 10 years. Recently, high end lofts, hotels, and eateries have sprouted while historic banks and cinemas have been converted to entertainment or bargain shopping centers. 


Amidst the upheaval where evolution and devolution meet, enters the Los Angeles Metro subway system and it's newest offshoot, the Expo Line. Now Westsiders integrate the trendy pubs and clubs near Fig, Spring, and Bunker Hill alongside Mid Cities, Hollywood, and Silver Lake crowds. 


 
At the Pershing Square station, riders surge up the stairs and flow around the teen asking for a light and the man setting down his bedding and securing his shopping cart for the night. Paths diverge along 5th - some head towards the historic Hotel Alexandria. Once temporary home to presidents and Golden Age movie stars, now re-invented as affordable housing with an artists' space. Others break for the cafes, wine bars, and galleries along Spring where the Downtown LA Art Walk showcases local art and photography every 2nd Thursday. (On Saturdays, the Los Angeles Conservancy Walking Tours reveal locales around Pershing Square best seen in daylight - Angels' Flight, Grand Central Market, and the LA Central Library included).


© Ysa Adams / Incite Photography    
Historic meets hipster and *all* are welcome at The Last Bookstore. New (by downtown standards) in that it originally opened in 2009 (they moved to 5th and Spring in 2011) and old in terms of the age of most of the books and records found inside. Also there's the open invitation to come in and get warm right at the entrance.  

Funky (in a good way) doesn't even begin to cover it. Like any good bookstore, you're welcome to sit and try before you buy. Handmade(?) signs and occasional post-it notes give a general sense of what's down each row. Don't expect anything less than a treasure hunt and a possible trip down memory lane. Upstairs, the Labyrinth houses the $1 collection (all 100,000+ books and records are $1 each) and connects to a row of galleries and art on display© Ysa Adams / Incite Photography, The Last Bookstore

Downstairs, the center stage alternately hosts open mic, storytelling, and book signing events. 

Like most of the city, Downtown Los Angeles is a hybrid melding the latest and greatest developments while retaining its foundation and people. Lucky for locals, no one's running out of ideas on how to transform it. Maybe it's time to invest in a Metro card.





Up next: Day Trips - California Mission Crawl

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