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Best Place to Buy Someone Else's Memories: Melrose Trading Post (Stall #67C)

Holy cheese, the world is an amazing and horrifying place, and the proof lies in big cardboard boxes in Mark Kologi’s photo stall at the labyrinthine Melrose Trading Post. Here are countless examples of the Freak Parade that is the human race. Each box is filled with thousands of little photographic moments, snapshots that depict not only a person or people smiling (or crying, or glaring), but contextual tidbits — a revealing Streisand poster on a back wall, dying roses by the side of the bed, a wine stain on a white carpet, a crumb of food on a bottom lip — that pose more questions than they answer. Our favorite is the shot of newlyweds toasting directly below a wall-hung (and upside-down) horseshoe — a relationship cursed from the start, and captured on film. Or the Gerhard Richter–esque blurred image of a red-lipsticked, bouffant-wearing woman posing in front of a battleship. Or the muted mis-shot of a woman’s green high-heels on lush blue carpet, which could be a lost William Eggleston.

“As soon as a picture leaves its family, it becomes a whole different thing. It becomes art,” Kologi says. The affable collector of lost souls clearly loves his job, giggling as you purchase quirky portraits (two-for-a-buck!), unintentional still lifes and suitable-for-framing 4-by-5 landscapes. He sells a lot of his product to artists and writers looking for images and ideas, and has another 50,000 in storage, images “that don’t have that rock & roll to them, that are just general Americana.”

On any given Sunday, Kologi’s booth is a great place to bond with entertaining strangers. The people who dig through these boxes are a special breed, those who prefer that the people-watching fun include ghosts. A writer himself, Kologi feeds his supply from estate sales and says that much of his bounty is due to “deaths, divorces and imprisonments,” a fact that tempers each oddball image with a certain melancholy. So happy ... so alive ... so unincarcerated.

 
544 N. Fairfax Ave. (at Melrose Ave.), L.A., (323) 655-7679. Sundays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

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