War and City

Downtown LA represents an intentional failure of the built environment.

Courtesy Désirée van Hoek

More than any other major city in the US and perhaps the world, Los Angeles has a central city irreversibly associated with its underclass: the ten thousand or so people who live in and around the blocks known as Skid Row. Around 2007, Dutch fashion photographer Désirée van Hoek visited the area and found herself captivated by the micro-neighborhood and its residents. Skid Row would become the title of her first photo book.

In a new volume titled Notes on Downtown: Los Angeles 2007–2022, van Hoek draws back to examine the spatial landscape of Downtown, with its vast parking garages; its cyber-noir tunnels; its fallow lots, worth their weight in gold ($600 per square foot); its luxury boutiques; its unrelenting sun and thin shade; and, inevitably, its people, many of whom make this harsh environment their home because they have nowhere else to go. She shows us these images, but she also employs text creatively to unravel their antecedents, exposing the polit…

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