Photography by George Byrne
I was a passenger in George Byrne’s car once.
We were driving down Santa Monica Blvd when he very suddenly made a sharp left and abruptly threw his hazard lights on. With the car still running and its back jutting out into the street like a blind grandmother had parked it, he jumped out and ran into the middle of the road with his camera. Barefoot, he ran back to the car after the tenth angry beep of passers-by. “What the fuck are you doing?” I asked him. “Did you see that shadow hitting the building? I had to pull over. The light was incredible,” he replied.
Obviously, I didn’t see the shadows, and I am not blessed with George’s intuition or creative vision. So, in this regard, I think the best way to explain George Byrne’s photography is to have George Byrne talk about his photography. Over to you, GB.
“I love LA. I love the dusty flat sprawling suburbs. I love the derelict 80’s architecture and the perfect flat yellow light. As an outsider, I see it as a rambling composite of displaced energies, all shallow root systems, all hope and dread, all sky. I like the fact that if the earth sneezes, it’s all over. Moving to Los Angeles a few years ago made a huge impact on my creative practice, I began to photograph the things I was immersed in every day. I started to see great beauty in things I really hadn’t before.
“I wanted to explore the idea that the things we see most often are the things we tend to ignore, they become invisible due to repetition and perceived lack of value. We are trained to marvel at waterfalls, not parking lots. Like Jeffrey Smart and Hockney (and many more), my challenge was to find objective beauty and mystery within the seemingly banal aesthetic confines of everyday urban landscapes. I find these spaces highly charged and deeply interesting, especially in LA.
“I’m very interested in the division of space, or composition. To me there is a very pure, beautiful, almost mathematical truth to it – every picture I take I feel like I’m solving a little puzzle. In a photograph, there is a place for every element to go, you just have to chip away at it to find the most compelling combination of elements.
“Overall, these pictures reflect my interest in the streets of LA. The bleached out, sprawling mega city. I’m interested in Jon Fantes LA; the underdog, the accidental anti-hero of the West Coast, a land of endless suburbs, impossible light, lonely souls meandering through bright empty streets, wasted schizophrenic architecture, a vast catchment for human beings from all over America, and the world. The secret desert; so many things at once, I’m in a perpetual state of awe at this city, its poetic deprivation, its truth, its fraudulence. These are the things that fuel my desire to engage, street by street.”