These 1970s Photos and Vintage Slides Reveal L.A. Street Scenes and Experimental Architecture


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In the late 1960s, a group of architects, photographers and psychologists converged to disrupt the way academia thought about city life. The media collective, which went by the name Environmental Communications, set out to photograph unconventional architecture and urban culture around the world.

Los Angeles was one of the group's main subjects — members snapped photos on the street and from blimps that soared high above the megalopolis. In these images, Los Angeles reveals its everyday look, a far cry from the buttoned-up architectural photographs that portrayed a rarefied world of cathedrals, government buildings and luxurious residences. Instead, they captured photos of corner strip malls, parking lots and movie theaters, while documenting billboards, murals and neon signs.

Environmental Communications then submitted its photos to university slide libraries — long before the internet, universities taught students by projecting slides in classes — as an iconoclastic comment on culture. By capturing street scenes, they were able to show how people really lived in cities, eschewing the lofty ideals of city planners and architects who dreamed of a utopian future.

As part of the exhibition Environmental Communications: Contact High on view at LAXART from Feb. 18-April 1, here are some of the group's photos of Los Angeles street scenes, Japanese inflatable structures and snapshots from countercultural movements of the 1960s.