PDN Photo of the Day

The Surprising Beauty of the LA River

Ray Carofano’s series “Riverrun” explores the harsh geometry of the Los Angeles River, the manmade, 51-mile chute that carries storm water from the San Fernando Valley to the Pacific. Reviled as over-engineered and unfriendly to nature, the river is nonetheless home to fish and birds. In a show at dnj Gallery in Santa Monica on view from May 20 to July 8, Carofano records the occasional graceful heron, seagulls wading in shallow water and the shadows cast by a flock of birds on a cement wall. Some images focus on action reflected on the water’s surface—we catch indirect views of a green and red truck crossing an overpass and the sketchy outlines of a billboard in a blue sky. But mostly Carofano explores the subtle play of light on the flat expanses of water, mud and cement, finding surprisingly complex abstractions in these simple elements.

As Carofano writes in a statement about the series, he became interested in the subject during frequent bicycle trips along the river, which slowly “revealed its aesthetic potential,” he writes. “I became aware of the geometric shapes, muted color, and reflections that developed into abstraction. The images play with one’s perception; are we looking at a bridge or the shadow of a bridge? And could that be a reflection of a shadow?” Together, the river “makes for strange visuals for anyone who looks hard enough,” he writes.

Related Stories:
Lake Powell Dries Up
Toxic Rainbows in the Gowanus Canal
Carl Johnson’s New Book Examines Alaska’s Bristol Bay (for PDN subscribers; login required)

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