When photographer Jett Loe came to Los Angeles in 2012 in search of a home for he and his wife, he was amazed at what he found – hiding in plain sight. Almost by accident, Loe stumbled upon West Adams, a once forgotten central Los Angeles enclave located halfway between Downtown LA and Santa Monica, full of hundreds of homes from the city’s early pre-Hollywood hey-days. In his highly anticipated iBook, Untold LA, available now on iTunes, Loe’s alluring photographs tell the story of West Adams, a place that in recent years has been revitalized by long time residents, as well as an influx of newcomers, who like Loe, were captivated by the district’s incredible collection of legacy architecture.
“In 2012 I was scouting for a place to live in Los Angeles for my wife and myself,” says Loe. “I was new to the city and didn’t have a car, but heard about an interesting place opening up in a communal house in the Harvard Heights neighborhood of West Adams. When I got off the bus on the corner of Western and Washington in Los Angeles I was a little dispirited. Although the area had a lot of big-city life, which I love, (spent most of my adult life in London), the buildings and landscape felt drab and run down! But then I walked a block, turned a corner and was stunned. Street after street, block after block, was filled with the most astonishing collection of Craftsman homes I had ever seen.“
“My wife and I ended up moving into that communal house in West Adams,” Loe continues, “and I learned that the neighborhood was the original wealthy center of town, the ‘Beverly Hills before Beverly Hills’. With such a historic collection of beautiful homes, (not just Craftsmans but Victorians, Tudors and more), I was surprised that no one had done a coffee table book of photographs on the area. So I created a 25-day Kickstarter campaign, (a way to raise money online from folks for artistic projects), and raised enough to buy the equipment I needed for the project.”
With 500+ photos gracing 361 interactive pages, as well as 70 oral history audio clips from West Adams residents and two hours of behind-the-scenes video commentary, Untold LA presents a wealth historical information that admirers of Los Angeles, American history and architecture will thoroughly enjoy.
When asked why he was using the iBook format for this project, Loe explains, “the iPad seemed to be the perfect medium for a project focusing on the visual. Holding an iPad is holding an illuminated window on the world, a natural home for a project like Untold LA, that has so many photos of beautiful stained glass for instance. In addition, its ability to play audio and video meant that I’d be able to really add richness and diversity to the project.”
“In the end,” Loe continues, “the iPad book has 70 oral history audio clips with residents of West Adams talking about their homes, their lives and the history of the area as well as two hours of behind-the-scenes-video commentary which gives more insight into the history of the district’s neighborhoods and the project’s photographic process.”
“I’ve lived all over the world, in towns big and small,” says Loe. “So I thought of myself as open-minded and not the type to judge cities ahead of time. Yet, like so many people who have never lived here, I did judge Los Angeles. The mental model I had of LA was of a modernist landscape of disposable buildings and a culture that was dedicated to the shallow and the surface, so you can imagine my surprise to find the massive historical richness of West Adams with its gorgeous Victorian and Craftsman homes. Not just the homes affected me, but also the stories I heard, and then recorded, and incorporated into the book.”
“With its cultural and ethnic diversity, its vibrant flora and amazing buildings,” continues Loe, “this city is as wonderful as any I’ve lived in. I feel lucky to have realized this and to be able express my subsequent joy by creating Untold LA.”
“The Craftsman Spotlight” is an ongoing series where artists, craftspeople, and their businesses are featured. This time, we’re thrilled to spotlight UntoldLA! If you’re interested in featuring your business with The Craftsman Bungalow, please click here for more information.