The city at night brings me peace. Night photography, especially in Downtown Los Angeles is preferable. I’ve always been a night owl and feel more comfortable shooting at night. Night photography is definitely a focus of my attention.
I especially enjoy the view of Downtown Los Angeles from East LA. Specifically Boyle Heights. Boyle Heights is east and south-east of Downtown Los Angeles and geographically has a nice elevation for viewing. The altitude gain helps to see the L.A. River, as well as creates a greater sense of space visually. From Boyle Heights, viewing the city at night you can see more rooftops, more buildings, and more freeways.
"People who go to bed early always complain that the night is too short, but for those of us who stay up all night, it can feel as long as a lifetime." - Banana Yoshimoto
Boyle Heights, the name lays claim to all the highlands of the 9th ward, including Brooklyn Heights and Euclid Heights. Los Angeles will always be here. The LaBrea Tar Pits hold fossil records dating back 38,000 B.C. There is also evidence of Chumash Indians having settled the Los Angeles Basin 8000 years B.C. Around 500 A.D. the Tongva Indians descend upon the Chumash and by the 16th century had displaced all but a few.
Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portola settles the area in 1769 in hopes of opening new trade routes. His settlers name the local river, “Rio de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de Porciuncula” (River of Our Lady Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula). 12 years later, Felipe de Neve named their settlement “El Pueblo Sobre el Rio de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula.” But let’s be honest, that’s not going to fit on any freeway signs. A census in 1841 shows a population of 141.
Porciuncula is named after a small church in Italy. Its name means “small portion of land.” So, “El Pueblo Sobre el Rio de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula” translates to “The Town on the River of Our Lady the Queen of Angels River of the small portion of land.”
In modern times, I’d take that to be, “The small town, on the small piece of land, on the Lady Queen of the Angels River.” Either way, that town name, is soon after shortened to “Los Angeles.” The church in which she’s named after is in the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli, or Saint Mary of the Angels. So there has always been a strong link to Angels with the name.
Eventually, the small town on the river with a population of 131 in 1790 would grow to 3.4 million by 1990. Los Angeles has attracted so many people that the surrounding areas became populated as Los Angles began to spread all over Souther California forming smaller municipalities, forming the Greater Los Angles area. I wonder what night photography would have looked like using modern day cameras? Going back in time for just one night of night photography in Los Angeles during the 1790’s would be amazing. A full moon, and super long exposures.
“El Pueblo Sobre el Rio de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Angeles del Río de Porciúncula” Is the first official name of Los Angeles, but let’s be honest, that’s not going to fit on any freeway signs.
The Greater Los Angeles area is estimated to be home to 18.5 million people making it the second largest metropolis in the nation, but because of her vast urban sprawl, she’s one of the largest urban agglomerations on the planet. Still, it feels like a tiny place sometimes, and sometimes it feels like the tiny places go on forever leading through one alley, down a road to a freeway to another city, and still, you’re in Los Angeles.
Night photography in Los Angeles will always be something that I enjoy doing. It’s fun to drive around at night knowing people have been here for 10,000 years. Knowing the history of the first settlers and their outrageously long naming style, and somewhere along the line someone shortening it. You know it was a valley girl, 200 years ago. “Uh, no, I’m just calling it Los Angeles!” But it’s nice knowing the history and to know that I’m here during this history, and that one day in 200 years it will still be here, in some form or another. I would like to see it then.