True Topographics + Brooklyn 2018

True Topographics: to provide insight into the transformation that Los Angeles is undergoing from a local, street level perspective.

True Topographics + Brooklyn 2018

Archival Recordings 17

I have previously written about the influence that the New Topographics style has had on my own photography, especially when I was first trying to define my own aesthetic. Discovering this body of work and going to the exhibition at LACMA (in the early 00's) helped me process some of the ideas around time, place, and our relationship to the built environment. The key difference is that my own work is based on my personal relationship to Los Angeles and is rooted in an autobiographical interpretation of neighborhoods I document. This perspective is the foundation of all of my work, running contrary to the implied impartiality of most documentary photography. I emphasize this distinction upfront because it is the basis of my creativity and binds me to the subject matter I focus on in a valuable, important way.

Centering my personal history in this way led me to the concept of "True Topographics" as a way to combine it with my approach. Using my lived experiences as the starting point infuses a great deal of meaning into work that may seem neutral at first glance. There are specific reasons that my style has evolved into its current form that are tied to how places evolve over time.

I've lived in Los Angeles since I was 2 years old and my photography is built on authenticity.

I'm one of the kids from the neighborhood that stayed and I draw on my background as inspiration for the work I create today. True Topographics as a concept perfectly communicates what I'm trying to accomplish: to provide insight into the transformation that Los Angeles is undergoing from a local, street level perspective.

Field Trip: Brooklyn 2018

I love New York. This may seem odd from someone who has built a career photographing Los Angeles but in my case it makes a lot of sense. Not only was I born there (Brooklyn represent!) but my family has roots in the city going back to the 1930's. And even though I have no memory of living there, I visited frequently as a child and have fond recollections of running around Brownsville with my cousins as a kid.

In 2018, I was accepted into the New York Times Portfolio Review and found myself visiting the city again for the first time in over 20 years. Although I had very little time to explore (I was in the city on a redeye and had two days), I made it a point to visit the part of Brooklyn that my family lived in before we moved out west. I walked from the hospital I was born in (Kings County) to one of the places we used to frequent the most, Pitkin Avenue.

It was an interesting contrast to the neighborhoods I usually shoot in L.A., both visually and in the general atmosphere. Being in a place that I was connected to yet generally unfamiliar with was new for me but very inspiring. Brooklyn in the spring is truly a beautiful place.

Next newsletter I'll share more work from another trip I took to New York, including work from Harlem and some street photography from Midtown. I'll also have the details on Archival Recordings Zine 02.

Stay safe out there y'all.
Kwasi Boyd-Bouldin
Archival Recordings