Covid Projects: Karen Constine: (un)real landscapes: Los Angeles plays itself
Los Angeles is a car culture, with land and cityscapes mostly seen through windshields, presenting as fleeting glimpses of place. When California announced it’s Stay at Home order on March 19th, 2020, that all changed. Suddenly the streets were empty and the natural world had a moment to make itself known again. Photographer Karen Constine began to take long walks around her neighborhood in the Miracle Mile section of Los Angeles. The area contains a stretch of Wilshire Boulevard known as Museum Row, home to such cultural institutions as LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art), La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, and the soon to open Academy Museum. Using an infrared camera, Constine began to see familiar places in a whole new way for her project, (un)real landscapes: Los Angeles plays itself.
The photographs reveal nature having it’s peacock moment, in full Spring bloom, but her walks were also timed with the destruction of the Los Angeles County Art Museum, that opened up new, unseen vistas. The experience was surreal and it began a project of re-seeing the familiar.
(un)real landscapes: Los Angeles plays itself will be exhibited as part of The Year of Not Knowing, a virtual exhibition and Constine will be giving an artist talk about this work via Los Angeles Center of Photography on Tuesday, March 16th, 2021, at 5pm. You can sign-up here.
(un)real landscapes: Los Angeles plays itself
Like the rest of the globe, the Coronavirus forced Angelenos to quarantine and shelter in place. (un)real landscapes: Los Angeles plays itself explores what a pandemic society looks like — otherworldly, unreal.
Pre-pandemic, the streets of Los Angeles were decidedly at odds. Increasing homelessness, changing demographics, and rapid gentrification of older neighborhoods were already happening. Parallel with this, Los Angeles is the movie backlot of the world — a pretend land, a place for dreamers. Los Angeles is all of this and more. During long walks in this time of COVID-19, the city revealed a new self and an ever-changing sense of place.
Shot using a color enhanced infrared (IR) (665nm) camera, (un)real landscapes’ IR images call to mind Kodak’s Aerochrome infrared film. This film was used frequently by governments, the military, and the scientific community for aerial photographic applications, such as vegetation and forestry surveys, hydrology, and earth resources monitoring, where infrared discrimination may yield practical results. In (un)real landscapes, the infrared camera also shows nature is ever-present and thriving in an urban environment despite the pandemic.
Karen Constine is a photographer whose practice examines aspects of cultural traditions and spaces that are in transition. Her photography is an ongoing visual exploration of contemporary pilgrimages that include daily rituals and customs. Her focus is to document the connection between individuals and the places they inhabit.
She received her B.A. in Communications from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and is actively involved in the photographic and arts community in Los Angeles. Her photography has been exhibited in juried group shows including #ICPConcerned, Global Images for a Global Crisis at International Center of Photography in New York City, Connected World 2020 at Los Angeles Center of Photography, Forsaken at S.E. Center for Photography in Greenfield, South Carolina, and published in Against the Grain Magazine. Karen was recently selected to present her (un)real landscape: Los Angeles plays itself project at the Pasadena-East LA Open Show #34, hosted by Pasadena Photography Arts.
Presently, Karen is working on several personal projects, including her series Harajuku in L.A., an ongoing series of portraits that capture the self-expression and individualistic style adopted by the Harajuku and J-fashion inspired persons living in Southern California.
Karen’s photography and travels have taken her to six continents, including visits to remote indigenous populations and places of cultural and environmental significance. She is based in her native city of Los Angeles. @karenconstine
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