Aline Smithson – Los Angeles (Kris Graves Projects – Lost II series)
Photographer: Aline Smithson (born & resides Los Angeles, CA, USA)
Publisher: Kris Graves Projects, Queens, NY, copyright 2019
Introductory Essay: Aline Smithson
Stiffcover book, perfect bound, four-color lithography, printed by SYL, Barcelona, Spain
Photobook designer: Kris Graves
Reviewed by Douglas Stockdale
The Kris Graves Projects Lost series (currently Lost II, set of 20 books with slipcase) are regional investigations each by a photographer who calls it home; the book series is complementary and expanded on by the broader collective; how do you define a region (place), what does it really tell a reader about the cultural values? Each book is a slim volume that with brevity provides an individual’s unique narrative.
Aline Smithson’s book cover hints at the potential diversity of Los Angeles; we do not see the face of her subject but we are confronted by the steady gaze of photograph of a person who is affixed on her subject’s mobile phone. Differences abound between the two; race and sex are the most apparent, which raises questions as to the proximity of these two visual elements. Then there is the demurely revealed legs of her subject and the dark color of the finger nails, which visually ties together the colors of her subject’s dress, purse and finally the smiling eyes that confront us. Due to the shallow depth of field of the photograph, the actual location of her sitting subject at this moment in time is ambiguous, although it could be Los Angeles.
Smithson’s project attempts to define “Los Angeles”, which is both a County and a City located in Southern California. A black outline of map on the exterior of the back cover defines the City of Los Angeles, including its odd appendage that claims the Port of Los Angeles for the City. Much of the city of Los Angeles, as well as most of Smithson’s photographs, perhaps for the exception of certain iconic locations such as the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Scientology kingdom and was once the home of Playmates, could be related to all of Southern California, including the greater Los Angeles County, Ventura County, Orange County and perhaps parts of the Inland Empire.
Which is not the point that Smithson is making as much as exploring the complex multiethnicity of the this region; the ubiquitous blue skies and palm trees, slowly falling in love again with the mariachi low rider tattooed Kangol Hat gold toothed hip-hop east side movie loving foodie hipsters west side workout woman saggy pant skate riding residents with faces from every part of the globe… Which is the underlying spirit of Los Angeles that Smithson is getting poetically in tune with. And having lived here for many, many years I am still getting to know this enigma of Southern California and thus this petite book really resonates with me.
Other books by Aline Smithson which have been previously featured: Self & Others