By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Garcetti has vowed to save the modest paddleboat program. But perhaps fittingly, because of the languid beauty of the two palm-tree-encircled lakes, it’s photographers who are leading the fight on behalf of the boats.
CRUSADER MARTIN COX was the first on board. Cox was raised in Southampton, England, where the Titanic began its maiden voyage. He stood among the weeping thousands as the Queen Mary sailed from Britain for the final time. Fascinated with ships, he runs a Web site devoted to them, www.maritimematters.com, and says he just finished co-writing a history of the Los Angeles Steamship Company that will be published next year.
In June, while strolling in Echo Park, his nautical sensibilities were stirred by a posted notice that the paddleboat operation was being closed down.
“This was stunning news,” Cox says. “I started taking pictures of this social activity that was sort of vanishing before our eyes — an activity that was cross-generational, a family activity that was sort of healthy, that doesn’t involve sugar or TV.
“I did a little bit of research and, as far as I could tell, there had been rental boating of some kind in Echo Park for 111 years. Canoes, rental row boats .?.?. and these paddleboats. There aren’t many things that L.A. can claim to have done for 100 years.”
Cox, Bendat and another photographer, Sara Jane Boyers, spent much of the summer lobbying Los Angeles City Council members — who intervened, but only to keep the boats going through Labor Day — and taking pictures of the boats in what might be their final months. They also arranged a pair of photo exhibitions to call attention to the fight.
Works by 11 different photographers who shot the boats are being displayed all this month at Mama’s Hot Tamales Café, at 2124 West Seventh Street, adjacent to MacArthur Park. A second exhibition, featuring the same photographers but a different selection of photos, is expected to run through November at Downbeat Café, 1202 North Alvarado Street, in Echo Park. An opening reception is planned there for November 3.
“Visually, it’s great,” Boyers says of the scene when families are out boating. She concentrated her own photographic efforts on the interactions of people in an environment of palm trees and distant office towers: elements that remind her of a Seurat pointillist landscape. “People are waving at each other on the boats,” she says. “It was wonderful to catch that energy and emotion.”
Boyers points out that a story in The New Yorker not long ago suggested a strong correlation between the number of women who visit a park and the relative safety of going to that park. While no one would mistake the crowds at MacArthur Park for a meeting of the Jane Austen Society, the point rings true with Sandy Romero, one of the community leaders who has led the restoration of that park through her nonprofit Institute for Urban Research and Development.
Romero, who is the “Mama” of Mama’s Hot Tamales, says she not only has a deep sentimental appreciation for the paddleboats — she rode them as a young girl on family trips downtown — but they are vitally important to keeping families there and in tenuous control of the park.
“They’re a positive activity,” she says of the boats. “The more positive activities we have going on in the park, the more it helps keep away the bad elements.”
“Without a Paddle” Photo Exhibit
Exhibition 1, now underway at Mama’s Hot Tamales Café, 2124 W. Seventh
Exhibition 2 opens Saturday, Nov. 3, 6-8 p.m. at Downbeat Café, 1202 N.
Alvarado St., Echo Park.
Featuring the Los Angeles League of Photographers and works by Deborah
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