We founded CVLT Nation while we lived in L.A., two years before we moved to Canada. Recently, we went back, and the city has changed since the pandemic. There was always a tension in the air, which seemed normal for a place that boasts some of the most expensive living in the world alongside some of the most deprived. But driving around the city this year made it clear that poverty has exploded in L.A., and so has gentrification. Property developers are destroying historical neighborhoods while under every bridge is a slum apartment building. People shopping at Trader Joe’s have stank energy.
Scot Sothern set out to capture L.A.’s gritty reality, sitting in the passenger side of his friend’s ride. These are his drive-by street portraits, pictures of the very, very few people on foot in this sprawling city. These photos feel like the city I tried to describe to my kids, who didn’t remember that L.A. was anything besides Hollywood. There is so much beauty in this city that goes unappreciated by the people who don’t know it’s there, but there’s also so much Most of the photos below are from Sothern’s book Sad City, published by STRAYLIGHT Press.
I guess I could justify what I do by saying I’m photographing people who don’t necessarily want to be photographed to show the world how dysfunctional and needy America is, but that’s kind of a stretch. Maybe I should show a little more caution and tact? And, of course, I should respect boundaries but at the same time, fuck that, I came of age in the sixties and grew up with a healthy disrespect for pretty much everything. That’s what my work is about.
While the pictures and stories might further my own objectives I think my objectives are empathetic to the suffering that surrounds us.SCOT SOTHERN
All images © Scot Sothern