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Carmageddon Countdown: What the 405 Closure Will Look Like, Courtesy of 'Empty L.A.' Photo Project

Updated on Page 3 with video inspired by Matt Logue's "Empty L.A." photos -- a moving illusion of bleak, car-free Los Angeles.

Here's a good way to save $400 on a helicopter tour of the exotic, breathtaking empty 405 freeway during this weekend's massive carpool-lane construction -- and observe the rest of L.A. in a similarly unnatural state of car-lessness, to boot. (Plus, with all them renegade Ridazz and skateboarders planning a flash mob for the construction site, your hundred-stacks might get you a messy revolution, not a pristine-concrete postcard. We think the former's way cooler, but to each his own.)

Anyway. Turns out artist Matt Logue, who works as an animation supervisor in Los Angeles, was way ahead of CalTrans in 2009, when he released a series of exotic, breathtaking (no sarcasm this time) photos, in which all moving objects were removed. He called it "Empty L.A." To mark Day 3 of the Carmageddon countdown, here are three shots we found of the 405:

They're not within the bounds of the Carmageddon project, but to be honest, the 405 pretty much looks the same anywhere you shoot it. Behold:

Carmageddon Countdown: What the 405 Closure Will Look Like, Courtesy of 'Empty L.A.' Photo Project
Matt Logue
Carmageddon Countdown: What the 405 Closure Will Look Like, Courtesy of 'Empty L.A.' Photo Project
Matt Logue
Carmageddon Countdown: What the 405 Closure Will Look Like, Courtesy of 'Empty L.A.' Photo Project
Matt Logue

Thanks, Matt, for reminding us that the 405, on top of being the busiest roadway in the United States, is also the ugliest.

But the photographer poked his camera, and worked his removal magic, on many corners of the city beyond the monster eight-laners. (And soon to be even more-laners, thanks to Carmaggedon. Which, as LA Weekly reporter Gene Maddaus recently pointed out, won't even relieve traffic in the long run. Sweet.) A few of our non-405 "Empty L.A." favorites:

 

Carmageddon Countdown: What the 405 Closure Will Look Like, Courtesy of 'Empty L.A.' Photo Project
Matt Logue
Carmageddon Countdown: What the 405 Closure Will Look Like, Courtesy of 'Empty L.A.' Photo Project
Matt Logue
Carmageddon Countdown: What the 405 Closure Will Look Like, Courtesy of 'Empty L.A.' Photo Project
Matt Logue

Pretty freaky, right? More photos, and how he did it, after the jump.

 

Carmageddon Countdown: What the 405 Closure Will Look Like, Courtesy of 'Empty L.A.' Photo Project
Matt Logue
Carmageddon Countdown: What the 405 Closure Will Look Like, Courtesy of 'Empty L.A.' Photo Project
Matt Logue

In an interview with Rangefinder Magazine, headquartered here in L.A. County, Logue told reporter Jared Smith he became interested in the project in 2005 after spending "another morning sharing the road from Torrance to Santa Monica gridlocked with his fellow commuters."

Said the photographer: "I spend a lot of time driving to and from work. It sounds kind of ridiculous because I'm only 15 miles away, but it's hours out of your day. I just got an image of: What would this look like if it was empty? What would it sound like and feel like to be there? The initial objective of Empty L.A. was just to see it realized."

Now, what you really want to know: How'd he remove all the cars from the most carrific city in the nation? Rangefinder investigates:

Once he found an ideal location, Logue would return at a time when the scene, though never entirely still, would be at its least frenetic: "I had to go out a lot of Sunday and holiday mornings--New Year's morning and Christmas morning--when people were generally at home and when the traffic was light enough to be able to actually get a long distance perspective on the freeway."

And so on calm Sunday mornings, armed with a Canon 300D (Canon Digital Rebel in the U.S.), Logue would shoot 100 to 150 images of each cityscape to create a "digital mosaic." He explains, "Where there were cars, I took anywhere from 10 to 50 photos of each individual piece of the mosaic in order to have enough empty space on each Photoshop layer to paint through each car to the next layer. If there was road under there--great; if not, I could use another layer." Surprisingly, the compilation and abstraction process, while seemingly tedious, was therapeutic for Logue: "I'm not a city guy at all. When I was using the eraser tool in Photoshop and taking the cars out, I could just feel the tension melt away."

Hear that, Hitler? Big, bad Carmageddon could actually be a stress reliever, something to which those elite country-clubbers up in Malibu can certainly attest.

Anyway, the rest of Logue's "Empty L.A." series can be found here. This is apocalyptic, done right. Unlike some other end-of-the-world depictions we can think of. Ahem, Hollywood.

Update: Gizmodo found a similar project by videographer Ross Ching, in which he adds new music and drama to a video he posted a year ago in response to Logue's photo series. We like, very much:

Running on Empty (Revisited) from Ross Ching on Vimeo.

T-minus nine hours until the real thing! Check back to the blog this weekend for our #Carmageddon live blog, if you're so inclined. Yeah. That's happening.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]


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