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Chavez Ravine: 1949: A Los Angeles Story Hardcover – August 1, 1999


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Hardcover, August 1, 1999
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books (August 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811825345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811825344
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 8.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,481,767 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Don Normark has had more than ten thousand photographs published in Sunset and other magazines. His award-winning work has been shown at galleries and museums around the US and is found in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum, MIT, and the Smithsonian.

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Discover books, learn about writers, read author blogs, and more.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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It was a great journey and really brought back a lot of childhood memories.
"john@ioh.sparks.nv.us"
It seemed unbelievable, to live so close to downtown Los Angeles, and yet he remembers running through the hills, trees, and swimming in the L.A. river!
RoseMary Elias Perez (perezr@lisd.net)
Normark's book is both handsome and beautifully written, a fine example of text and image illuminating each other.
Ronald Scheer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By RoseMary Elias Perez (perezr@lisd.net) on November 15, 1999
Format: Hardcover
My father, Albert Elias (born - Los Angeles General Hospital in 1931), always told us stories of his childhood. It seemed unbelievable, to live so close to downtown Los Angeles, and yet he remembers running through the hills, trees, and swimming in the L.A. river! Every chance he had as we would drive through that area he would point out landmarks of his youth. We could only imagine, because all we could see was the Dodger Stadium, the parking lots, the freeways, and as for the "river"... to us it was a cemented canal. This book made me cry to see how truly beautiful this area once was, the harsh reality of the poverty, yet the incredible strength of the families that had the fortunate opportunity to experience living in the Chavez Ravine. How wonderful that Don Normark found this wonderland, and photographed it so well as a young man, and now like a miracle, fifty years later Don presents us with a museum quality photography books that tells a powerful story. We the readers can almost hear the "echos" of these neighborhoods in the L.A. hills through the incredible, hauntingly beautiful photographs, and relive the memories from those who once use to live there. This book made me feel extremely proud of my heritage.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on July 30, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Nestled in the hills between downtown Los Angeles and Pasadena is Chávez Ravine, site of Dodger Stadium and its acres of parking lots. Few baseball fans here could tell you that long before the Dodgers left Brooklyn, Chávez Ravine was the home of three communities of Mexican-American laborers and their families.
Don Normark, a young photographer in 1948, was climbing in the hills looking for postcard-shot views of LA when he discovered La Loma, Palo Verde, and Bishop. Each neighborhood was a rambling cluster of buildings, dirt streets, and footpaths. The wooded slopes of Elysian Park overlooked the ravine, and beyond were the peaks of the San Gabriel Mountains. He felt he had found another world -- a kind of Shangri-La. For many months, he returned to take pictures of what he saw and of the people he met there. He didn't know that he was recording on film the daily life of a place and its people that was about to disappear.
The pictures, of course, are black and white, a rich range of gray tones and contrasts under the cloudless southern California sky. In a casual street scene, two men stand talking on the hard dirt, and a third, his back to them, leans across a low concrete wall. All is in sharp focus from the dusty tire track in the foreground to the pointed tower of City Hall nudging up over a darkly wooded ridge in the distance. The mid-afternoon light reflects brightly off one man's tee shirt and from the front of a small white house farther on. Meanwhile, the shadows cast by eaves, palm fronds, parked cars, and the men themselves are deeply dark.
There are many pictures of people, of all ages. Some look into the camera. Most are busy working, walking, talking, playing. A young girl wears her confirmation dress. A boy watches his father repair a car.
Read more ›
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By "aamunoz" on January 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
It makes me so proud to see my Dad's old Mexican-American community captured in a book of photos. It's great to see my Aunt Sally Anchando quoted in the book. I recently saw my Aunts and Uncles who lived in Chavez Ravine (unfortunately, it was after my Mom's funeral). They passed around the book and talked about old times. I will pass this book on to my children, neices, and nephews so that they don't forget that their forefathers sacraficed a lot to create a better life for themselves and those who followed.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 9, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book is a collection of photos taken by a professional photographer in his youth. Normark took the photos as a twenty year old photography student in 1949, full of passion--and it shows. Fifty years later, he assembled the photos and found amd interviewed some of the original subjects. The result is a photo essay that captures a place that no longer exists with sensitivity and insight to a culture that was displaced by the construction of Dodger Stadium. Anecdotal stories abound: the one about hot wiring a stolen jukebox into the only streetlight for Saturday night dances is only one of the fascinating stories about the area and its people. Good stuff!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Iconophoric on July 15, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This book is full of classic, socially-conscious photography that bears a spiritual kinship with Dorothea Lange's Depression Era photos of Dustbowl Families. The images are doubly rich: as Old School black and white images shot on a reasonable speed film, with a broad and caress-ably subtle range of grays, and also as a record of a time and place that was stolen, and will simply never be again.
For those who don't know the story, in a nutshell: The residents of Chavez Ravine, who were almost entirely Latino, were offered the promise that their community would be replaced by public housing as part of a renewal project of sorts. (Some had called their neighborhood blighted.) But as the land acquisition proceeded, and as various official pledges were reneged and political cards played (including exploitation of the then current fear of creeping Socialism/Communism-- after all, I ask you, what could be more unAmerican than affordable replacement housing?), the project proved to be a lie. The final hold-outs at Chavez Ravine were bodily removed by deputies as the last remnants of the neighborhood were cleared to make way for a sports field and parking lot. (!)
This volume is great because these photos, which speak so eloquently of one specific place and time, also speak clearly of universal things. Children play; young couples tie the knot as family celebrates; honest and good people work to protect what is theirs, to better their lot, and just to get by. -- It is about nothing less than the struggle and joy of life itself.
If there is any uplift to the wistful story this book tells in beautiful images and words, it is in that the displaced people survived, persevered, and that their old home, and what happened there, is remembered today.
Sometimes, you have to search for the bright spot. A thought-provoking read. Recommended.
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