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Tag "Subculture"

Photographic Night Songs in Los Angeles

On the L.A. subculture portraits of Monica Nouwens.


Pessimists have been saying —especially since the fall of 2008— that we are witnessing the decline and fall of the American Empire (or the West in general). But whatever one may think of the current “crisis”, there is always room for optimism and creativity. One of the sunnier sides of economic catastrophe is that social interactions can develop some humanity outside of typical business conversation. Bicycles and public transportation may become popular again for cities that have bathed in gasoline for decades. “People are afraid to merge on freeways in Los Angeles”, begins Brett Easton Ellis’ debut novel, Less Than Zero.[1] There might come a time in which people are afraid to use freeways altogether. They will free themselves from the concrete serpent, by choice or by force.

“Dragons of light in the dark
sweep going both ways
in the night city belly.” [2]

Monica Nouwens, a Dutch expatriate living in Los Angeles, makes photographic portraits of people living in the margins, in a parallel Los Angeles (under)world.[3] Mostly young people and mostly at night: in run-down bars, clubs, or at makeshift food pantries. Appearing in her gentle and dreamy photographs are Whites, Blacks, Asians, Latinos, American Indians[4] and everyone in-between. Many of them forced, due to the precarious economic situation, into alternative lifestyles. Counterculture, subculture, underground, bohemia — we could call it many things, but one thing is sure: their lives run counter to regular economic activities, in which they don’t participate much, if at all. They live on low-paying day jobs (some in the porn industry), food stamps, unemployment benefits, or money from their families, if they have that luxury. They get food from the soup kitchen or the dumpster.[5] They hop from couch to couch or they sleep in cars, or on the beach.

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