On September 19, 2015 I walked the entirety of Melrose Ave in Los Angeles for a street photography project dubbed #On_Melrose.
I was accompanied by my friend Mervyn, who brought along a microphone to record the conversations we had with the people we met. We spoke with people about city life, Melrose, and about the stigma around walking in LA.
Below are some of the people we met #On_Melrose.
We met Ken at the east end of Melrose, he was my uber driver and was interested in my photography project. “I’m a photographer too, I do mostly private parties, still life, architecture. I wouldn’t mind walking with you guys someday.”
I met Jessica while she was hosting a yard sale on the sidewalk. She agreed to let me take her portrait, although her “Leave Me Alone” t-shirt would suggest he was ready for me to keep walking!
Alberto is an electrician and has been in LA for 38 years. I met him and his son Justin near their home on East Melrose. “I’m the kind of person who says hi and bye to everybody. You know, I don’t care if you’re rich or you’re poor or whoever you are. I think LA is more like a fast paced city. People live on a fast pace here… You know, people they all have attitudes. I mean, they don’t want to say hi. They don’t want to say goodbye. And before, it was not like that.”
On the day we met Miguel, originally from Guatemala, he was selling antique tools and cameras along a fence at Melrose and Westmoreland Ave.
Under the shade of a Mobil gas station sign, Desiree sits next to her friend Chris. My friend Mervyn asked her about the knife she had on her belt. “Well, I had an ex-boyfriend that was stalking me for a while. He’s a really mean guy. And he’s in jail now. Thank you Jesus. And, um, I had to stab him because he was trying to hurt me. And then um, there’s been a couple of people… I stayed in a tent for a while. And, um, they tried to get in my tent. Had to use it that way. And threatening people, too, that you know, were trying to get mean with me. I’d have to pull it out. And I’m not a violent person.” “She’s tiny!” Chris added” “But I’m feisty, though, huh?”
Mervyn is a former lawyer and currently is pursuing radio producing and podcasting. We met online through my #On_Pico project and we walked Melrose together in September 2015. He recorded interviews with the people we met, and was a huge help with the #On_Melrose project. After we randomly came across someone he knew from his hometown, his concept of LA shifted. “Oh my god. I feel like… LA just got a lot smaller. Like, in that moment, LA just collapsed in on itself and the idea that there are millions and millions of people here is bullshit. It’s just like, I can just run into someone on the street who I actually know!”
“I lived in Seattle for so many years and I got used to walking everywhere…If I have to be in my car, fine, I put on classical music and I’m great. Otherwise, I walk everywhere. [When you’re walking] You get to interact more with people. And that’s what I think is missing so much in this city is human interaction.” Lorrena told us. “What’s the weirdest thing that’s happened walking in LA?” Having a guy stop on the opposite side of the street and propose marriage. Just driving by and said, ‘I want to have your babies!’ To which I responded, ‘that’s kind of impossible, physically, unless you’re packing different mechanical equipment underneath there, but I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. But thank you, I’m flattered.”
“I feel like when I’m driving, I’m in a coffin. A really hot, metal coffin and it’s slowly killing me. I think a city like Los Angeles should be skate friendly. I’ve been booted off my skateboard a few times in Beverly Hills. I mean, it’s a perfect place to skate late at night cuz no one’s there, you know, so like the streets are wide open. It’s clean, the roads are really well paved. i think those roads need some skate love. Skate, don’t hate. Don’t kick us off our boards in Beverly Hills, man! …I love cops, too, by the way.” -Johnny in front of the Hollywood Historic Hotel.
“What’s the crazies thing that’s happened to you walking in LA?” “People try to pick you up, you know, like last night, ‘do you wanna do a threesome?’ something like that, you know, like really.” “Did you even consider it?” “Oh yeah, I was like, this is like something unreal like you see on the internet, you know, like the porn scene, you know, so go for it.” “Did you say no or did you say yes?” “Oh I said ‘yes’ and got in the car.” “Oh, and then what happened next?” “And then we went to his place. He called the girl and it was last night and we did a threesome and always used safety. That’s it.” “That’s what you get from walking, man.” “Yep that’s what walking does to you. So walk on.”
Charlene is a book binder, she’s been working at her beautiful shop on Melrose for 15 years. In the front corner, she showed us a collection of 7-foot wooden dowels covered in handwriting. “I’m kind of OCD, I wrote James Joyce’s Ulysses on these poles. There are 38 of them. I never got tired. Ulysses is probably the most incredible book in the world. I never once got tired writing it… I mean, because it’s irish, they all talk about sex all the time. But it’s not like sexy stuff, but they mention every kind of sex possible. It’s… it’s and amazing book.”
“Well, I never really knew what, you know, the meaning of life was or what I wanted to do, or nothing ever really made sense, and now everything makes sense. I’m like happy now and it doesn’t go away. I doesn’t only last for like an hour. It’s like, pretty much consistently happy. Yeah. I didn’t know that existed. Same with her. We kind just saved each other, you know? She’s the love of my fucking life.” “What did she save you from?” “Loneliness.” -Stevo and his wife Victoria.
“Thirty one years ago I came to United States to work as a designer. I’m from Jerusalem so, it was too small for me. I couldn’t make pink shoes for men in Jerusalem. I couldn’t make like a red jacket for men in Jerusalem. I wanted to, I’m like so over the top, I really like all this crazy stuff. which is crazy for Hollywood, so you can imagine 31 years ago in Israel. People rally thought I was crazy. So, yeah, that’s why I came here.” Jacob runs “Fashion for the Stars,” a design house on Melrose with 11-designers and clients like Jay-Z, Cher, Madonna and Katy Perry.
Julia: “Well I’ll tell you one thing. I lived in LA literally my entire life, right. Driving, city, and you drive by this stuff almost every single day and you think that you’re familiar with the area and then you walk through it and then you’re like, ‘fuck. wait, I think I just missed out on everything! Cuz we just moved to North Hollywood so we took the red line. We took the metro for the first time and we walked here.” Talia “And we feel like we’re in another city right now.”
“Everyone that works here, and all the people that’re involved in this industry we’re a community not just a business, you know. And that’s the best part about it. I’m in the business industry right now, that’s my major for college, as well. And it’s all about relationships. Having the best relationships, you’ll be the most successful. And that’s not saying making the most money, but just being well achieved in yourself and that’s really important.” Brandon behind the counter at the vaping shop where he works.
“You know, even in the morning I go to my work. Believe me I speak to the people in the city. Everybody say hi. If someone has dog we talk about dog. Or we talk about the weather or something. There is some communication. Because these days, everybody’s onn the cellphone in the internet texting. Nobody communicate. And is more human to have some conversation to have some contact with the other people in the world. And by walking for sure you talk to someone about a subject or weather or dog or something. And it’s good. Because all of us, we are deep inside of the texting and e-mailing and the human contact is getting [more] rare and rare. And this is very sad. You are getting like machine. Like robot.” -gallery owner Maryam (right) with her friend Azar (left) on the west end of Melrose in West Hollywood.