Tuesday, February 8, 2011
My friend David emailed me this photo that he took last night of downtown Los Angeles from the Baldwin Hills Overlook. I imagine the view itself was clearer than the photo -- the light in February is extraordinary.
Even though I've lived here now for more than thirteen years, not a day goes by that I am not filled with gratitude for our climate. During the winter months, particularly January and February, the light in the city is remarkable and while difficult to describe, I can almost feel it on my skin, in my eyes, resting and illuminating everything from the shimmering ocean to the curled pieces of trash that blow about on the streets. When David sent me the photo, I was reminded of an essay about the light in Los Angeles that I read many years ago in a New Yorker magazine, and the internet being the incredible thing that is, I soon found that article, published in the February 23rd, 1998 edition and titled L.A. Glows (I moved permanently to Los Angeles in January of 1998, so the article was probably the first I'd ever read about Los Angeles with avid interest). I wish that I could quote numerous passages from it, but here's one of my favorites, spoken by architect Coy Howard:
It's an incredibly loaded subject -- this diaphanous soup we live in," he said. It feels primeval -- there's a sense of the undifferentiated, the nonhierarchical. It's not exactly a dramatic light. In fact, 'dramatic' is exactly what it's not. If anything, it's meditative. And there's something really peculiar about it. In places where you get a crisp, sharp light with deep, clean shadows --which we do get here sometimes -- you get confronted with a strong contrasting duality: illumination and opacity. But when you have the kind of veiled light we get here more regularly you become aware of a sort of multiplicity -- not illumination so much as luminosity. Southern California glows, not just all day but at night as well, and the opacity melts away into translucency, and even transparency.