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Chavez Ravine: 1949: A Los Angeles Story Hardcover – August 1, 1999
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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 ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Wonderful pictures of a people, a community and a time in Los Angeles that no longer exists.Published 21 days ago by Lateef Baaset
Only once have I been to a baseball game at Dodgers Stadium in Chávez Ravine. I don't recall anything about the game, but I remember well the stadium, the perfect summer... Read morePublished 3 months ago by R. M. Peterson
I love the photography Don Normark did in this book and his stories. My grandfather guadalupe is on the front cover. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Lisa M. Conant
Interesting book for baseball fans as well as photographers. Brought to light a history of Chavez Ravine that was unknown to me and also provably to name others.Published 15 months ago by William E Thpmpson
nicely photographed. memorable black and whites. touching and informative mini stories of that era.Published 16 months ago by edward