Downtown Los Angeles is not what you think it is.

"For Tunnel Sake," Zack Herrera

“For Tunnel Sake,” Zack Herrera

Los Angeles is a really interesting place, a megalopolis that exploded before anyone had a chance to think about “urban planning,” let alone coin the term. As a result, it’s a somewhat-random amalgam of a bunch of smaller cities. On the Westside – Santa Monica and Venice. On the East – Silverlake and Echo Park. There’s the valley – Sherman Oaks and Studio City – and the Southside, which houses Compton. And then there’s downtown.

Many major financial-services’ firms and other “professional” firms have offices downtown. Location scouts suggest it for shoots because certain streets look like New York City on-screen. Downtown LA is bustling during the day, part of a proper city. But at night? Crickets.

It’s the weirdest thing.

"Bunker Hill East"

“Bunker Hill East”

There have been efforts to revamp it – notably Tim Leiweke‘s hope to bring a professional football team to the city and his company’s horrifically sad LA Live complex – for which Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Mauricio Umansky sells luxury condos – but they still haven’t caught on. And downtown is dangerous; it’s home to LA’s Skid Row, a neighborhood which houses one of the nation’s most stable populations of homeless individuals.

So downtown LA is basically bipolar, experiencing mania during the day and depression at night.

Randomly last fall I got an email that featured an interview with Zack Herrera, a photographer who worked with downtown LA’s natural evening light to develop a photo series in which he likened downtown to Frank Baum’s land of Oz. (HERRERA DIDN’T USE A FLASH. I CAN’T FIGURE OUT A BETTER WAY OF SAYING THAT SO, CAPS.) The pictures brought to mind the depiction of downtown LA in the 2011 movie Drive; they captured a different kind of underbelly to downtown LA, with their cool streaks of purples, greens and greys. I love them.

The thing with these pictures is…they make downtown LA at night look – well – warmMagical.  For some of us, downtown LA really is an Emerald City, and now we have proof.

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