One Good Life in Los Angeles

Roslyn's observations about places and events around Southern California

My camera and me in the Bunker Hill area of downtown Los Angeles

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downtown los angeles

One of my favorite things in life is to go for a walk with my camera, be it in a foreign country or in my own neighborhood. Many moons ago when my camera and I were best friends I loved walking around downtown Los Angeles and snapping photos of the buildings. Okay, I’ll tell you how long ago it was… in the 1970s… are you happy now?

downtown los angeles

Library Tower in center

This was before downtown LA, the heart of the city, was resuscitated. Downtown was still in its death throes. The antiquated, derelict 1920s buildings were ready for the wrecking ball and the blah “modern” architecture was nothing but rectangular boxes. But I appreciated it nonetheless.

downtown los angeles

California Plaza

I graduated from UCLA in 1973 and my mother decided to buy me a good camera to celebrate. I don’t remember even expressing an interest in having a camera so it came completely out of the blue. Since I was a teeny kid I had always had a camera of some kind, probably Kodaks. But photography was definitely not my hobby.

downtown los angeles

Omni Hotel on left, California Plaza on right

She took me to some discount store long out of business now and we settled on a Pentax SLR. I had no idea how to use it so I took a variety of classes at UCLA Extension with some pretty high-flying photographers of the day. I loved every minute. I had my own darkroom for processing black and white prints and I was in heaven.

downtown los angeles

Two fountains at MOCA. Flatbed in foreground, pyramid in background.

In those days, photography for me was an artistic expression. I enjoyed doing all kinds of weird things in the darkroom which I had set up in my bathroom. I hid in there every night with all those stinky chemicals and my partner at the time, poor guy, had to pretty much make an appointment to use the toilet!

downtown los angeles

California Plaza (left) and Wells Fargo Center (right) with skylight from MOCA in foreground.

Looking back on that time of my life I realize he put up with a lot from me, but that’s an entirely different story…

downtown los angeles

downtown los angeles

downtown los angeles

Artwork at MOCA represents a crashed plane. Birds love it as it provides all kinds of nooks and crannies to build nests.

Although I respected Ansel Adams, I worshipped Jerry Uelsmann and aspired to be him.

downtown los angeles

California Plaza building reflects Library Tower, the tallest building west of Chicago at 73 floors (at right). You can’t see the building itself from here, only its reflection!

Outside of the darkroom I liked shooting slide film. There was something about the transparency that spoke to me. And looking at the slides through a projector, the images came alive with the light. Slides were magical.

downtown los angeles

downtown los angeles

Gosh, if I had known what was to come with digital photography I would have jumped in the nearest time machine and fast forwarded.

downtown los angeles

Bank of America building.

In the mid ’90s, a long long time after I had given up on serious photography, I traded in my SLR and suitcase full of lenses and filters for an Olympus point and shoot. It was a great little camera and I loved the convenience.

downtown los angeles

A lovely fountain at the Bank of America.

When digital cameras arrived on the scene I bought another Olympus point and shoot that required four AA batteries. The resolution was low and the batteries lasted as long as a blink. I traded that in for an Olympus SP-350 8.0 megapixel. I still use and like that camera although it is incredibly slowwwwwwwwwwwwww…

downtown los angeles

Flags of the Unites States, California and Los Angeles flying in the high winds.

So now I have my Canon Rebel T3i DSLR… and once again my camera is my best friend. I am painfully learning all its tricks. I spent a whole year in Auto mode but gradually I am feeling confident to experiment with aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc and get back to where I was with my Pentax SLR.

downtown los angeles

Bonaventure Hotel built in the 1970s with outside glass elevators. Still has the most number of hotel rooms in downtown LA… but that might be changing soon.

And once again I am happy to wander around the heart of the City of Angels taking pictures of the wonderful buildings… the Beaux Artes and Art Deco treasures of the 1920s, the boxes of the 60s and 70s, and the glorious designs of the 80s and beyond.

downtown los angeles

One percent art program. One percent of the cost of the building project has to be spent on public art.

The area where I took these photos is known as Bunker Hill which since the late 1800s was a neighborhood of many lovely Victorian homes.

downtown los angeles

Center is One Bunker Hill, a beautiful example of lavish Art Deco architecture, completed in 1931 just as the Depression hit Southern California.

Over time it pretty much became a slum with working class people living in rooms in the deteriorating houses. So by the 60s the houses were cleared, the hill regraded, and office buildings, apartments and senior living accomodation moved in.

downtown los angeles

On this day LA was experiencing incredibly high winds. The down drafts from the tall buildings were pretty much lifting me off my feet and I don’t mind saying I was scared. So I was surprised to see these two helicopters circling around and around and around. I found out later the chopper at the bottom was filming the helicopter at the top for a scene in a movie starring The Rock.

downtown los angeles

I was told that despite the high winds the helicopters had been hired and had to fulfill the contract! You can see the camera at the front of the helicopter.

I was told that despite the high winds the helicopters had been hired and had to fulfill the contract!

The 1920s and the late 1970s or early 80s (my guess) meet in downtown.

All photos and content copyright roslyn m wilkins. Please feel free to pass along this post via email or social media, but if you wish to use some of our images or text outside of the context of this blog, either give full credit to myself and link to One Good Life in Los Angeles, or contact us for proper usage. Thanks!

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Author: RMW

I am an explorer and creative person. I've had many jobs, careers and interests... everything in life and the universe fascinates me. Born in Brighton, England, I've lived my entire adult life in Los Angeles. Recently I rediscovered photography and I am busy learning everything I can about it. It's a great excuse for getting outside, wandering around and stopping to look at things.

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