Happy (belated) birthday, L.A.

September 7th, 2016, 4pm

I don’t remember exactly when I started to really, I mean, really, like LA. It wasn’t during college, I’m positive, when telling others “I’m hanging out in LA this weekend” meant I also had to be casual about it because otherwise how could I look cool? If it didn’t happen in college, then it definitely didn’t happen during grad school, because to be honest, being surrounded by a small cohort of intelligent people didn’t make it any less likely for me to try to impress.

No, it must’ve been when I started the aimless city walks in search of urban portraits that I saw in Robert Frank’s The Americans. Trip after trip, though, my photos disappointed. I had chosen Los Angeles as the subject, not out of genuine fascination or desire to understand, but because it was the convenient, obvious choice to prove I can achieve a photo series with arresting, poetic expression like - please don’t laugh - Robert Frank’s The Americans. I guess being educated and 25 was mutually exclusive with being clueless and arrogant.

But soon enough, I liked LA. I liked myself more, too. I found myself speaking less with my mouth, and more with my pictures. A lot of them were in LA, and so I guess this was the place where I’d refine my language. I learned how it’s possible to be in a sprawling, seemingly disconnected place, and still find little intimate moments. I learned that what you do for yourself is not accumulating stuff or experiences to boost your sense of worth, but finding your very own, unique perspective on something even if it’s been done or seen by millions of people, millions of times before.

That’s what LA is. It’s a place full of people: tourists, hipsters, residents (permanent and transient), commuters, workers, all at the same time. What’s in LA that hasn’t been done or lived through already? What does it matter? I know what my history is here. And when I trace it, I know how I’ve grown to love it.

David Wade and Philippe said thanks.

Share this moment

Donovan Bui

Casual musings on travel and living. See my photos at http://donovanbui.com

Create a free account

Have an account? Sign in.

Sign up with Facebook