When he's not working as press secretary for City Councilman Paul Krekorian, Jeremy Oberstein combs the web for pictures of the backstreets of LA, compiling them all into his photography blog, LosAngelesAlleys.com. Now, not only are the blog's images available in a book called Los Angeles Alleys, they're also part of a month-long exhibition at Groundworks Coffee at 108 West 2nd Street downtown, opening tonight at 6:30 p.m., in conjunction with the Downtown L.A. Art Walk.
From Palms and Mid-City to Chinatown and Little Tokyo, Los Angeles Alleys unveils the hidden beauty of the back lanes and passageways of the City of Angels. We asked Oberstein to share ten of his favorite images from the book and the exhibit, and got insights from him and from photographers themselves.
“I took this shot during a brief walk around my neighborhood after a mid-afternoon rainstorm. I waited for a while to see if a person would walk through to add a human element, but, in retrospect, I like the emptiness and feel of the image. This was shot on Delta 400 film with a Leica M7 and 50mm Summicron lens and it was developed in Ilfotec DDX.” — Mark Hulbert
9. Los Feliz
“Two people walk down a street. One goes right, one goes left. One walks on grass, beaten down by years of activity, the other on pavement, pockmarked by cars and trash trucks. One goes home, the other keeps walking, never to be heard from again.” — Oberstein
“I used to live in a loft facing this alley. [It was] 5 a.m. on a Sunday morning, prepping for a commercial. I stumbled upon these set up by a cracked out homeless guy during the night. He found them in a dumpster.” — Doug McClintock
7. Olvera Street, Downtown
“We'll admit we had never heard of Naud Junction before, but have since learned it's a tiny stretch of real estate in downtown, near Phillippe's,” the famed French dipped sandwich restaurant. — Oberstein
“The image was taken three years ago, on August 24, while I was spending my birthday in Chinatown taking street pics…that particular alley is on the north side of 835 N. Broadway, looking toward Tak Shing Hong, which sells Chinese herbs and groceries…It was the golden hour, and the fiery glow of late sun on the red painted bricks made the alley look like a portal to another world…I took an uncharacteristically long time to set up this shot and then took just one, because the moment passed very quickly…I have gone back to that alley several times, but it has never looked the same.” — Elaine Layabout
5. Little Tokyo
“I used to co-run a blog about downtown Los Angeles called Angelenic before I moved to Amsterdam last year. One thing that was always important to me during that time was to show through my photography how diverse and quirky the neighborhoods of downtown are to people who don't know them. I think this photograph captures a side of that personality. It was taken from a hidden little strip called Wholesale Alley near Little Tokyo. Unfortunately that day the businesses were closed and their roll gates were down, but the view made it an interesting place to be nonetheless. — Stephen D. Friday
“I took it because I hadn't done any real photography for a month and I figured the scene of the alley was suitable, so I just waited for people and snapped.” — Balbir Bassan
“[It was] early Saturday afternoon a few months ago, a field trip for my photo students. Chinatown's fun to explore.” — Keith Johnson
2. Boyle Heights
“This picture was taken at 1st street and Anderson which is roughly still in Boyle Heights before the bridge into downtown Los Angeles. Growing up, I would see graffiti everywhere. It was amazing to me how these 'taggers' would risk their life and freedom just to make sure you knew they were there. As I grew older and immersed myself into the graffiti culture, I started to understand the importance of walls and alleyways just like this one. This particular alleyway did bring back fond memories of both growing up and what living in 1990s Los Angeles used to be.” — Raymond Miranda
“It's definitely one of the cleanest alleys I've seen, I think that made it unique for me. It gave it its own character but I don't know if the image would have worked without my dog.” — Justin Sangani
What are your favorite alleys in L.A.? Let us know in the comments section.