Renewed Topographics

November 20, 2009

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 8x10 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