Read Culture

Portraits of Canyon Life, LA

British duo Josh Jones and Dan Wilton join forces for a photo book that celebrates the diverse people of Runyon

Few places have been portrayed in films and novels in as many different ways as Los Angeles. The city can be everything from a glamorous Hollywood dream to a hippie playground to a seedy, hardboiled noir. One place where Angelenos meet is Runyon Canyon, which brings together hikers, dog walkers and yogis from various backgrounds every day, as people leave the city streets behind to wander the ragged trails. Writer Josh Jones and photographer Dan Wilton have captured some of the characters that come to Runyon in their new book “Canyon,” out tomorrow, 12 June 2015, off of London’s Ditto Press. The duo—who have worked together several times in the past—rented a house close to Runyon in February, and we spoke with the two Brits to discuss what it was about the LA landscape and people that caught their attention.

Was there something specific that drew to you to start a project on Runyon Canyon?

Dan Wilton: I went for a walk because we got the place close to Runyon and I’d heard about it. I had one camera on me and hadn’t really planned to do this, but there was this amazing mix of people there. There were two girls, Michelle and Haylee, who had matching outfits and were really outgoing, and both had matching dip-dyed dogs. Their dogs’ ears matched their shoes, and so I asked them if I could take their picture and the idea sort of came from them. LA’s quite segregated—like any big city—but at Runyon there’s a big mix of people.

Josh Jones: And there’s an insane view.

DW: Well sometimes, when there’s no smog. When there’s smog you get an insane haze.

Did you go up at specific times of the day to get the best shots?

JJ: We went at different times. At the weekend it’s really busy and people are from out of town—loads of tourists. We went up Runyon one time for the sunrise, and then it was lots of yoga people and spiritual types.

DW: I went up once and didn’t look at the weather forecast, and as I was walking up Mulholland I realized there were some pretty chunky clouds. It started chucking it down, and I was taking pictures of the view of LA from Mulholland, when a guy pulled up in a car. I thought he was going to offer me a lift off the hill, but instead he asked, “Why are you taking pictures of my house?” He really thought I was some celebrity-snapper. I walked up to the top and it started to thunder and lightning, and I’m basically at the highest place in LA, thinking, “I’m holding a metal camera, this is not good.” But the pictures turned out really good; after it stops raining, the smog really clears.

Who were the most interesting people you met up there?

JJ: There were quite a few. BJ…[was] interesting because, in the street, you maybe wouldn’t approach a dude who looked pretty hard and had these two crazy dogs, but he couldn’t be nicer. We were like, “That’s a cool dog” and he said thanks.

DW: I think I chased after them; I thought, “We need them.” Another guy, Jason, was very suspicious of us and thought we were from the cops—he was from TVR, which is a big gang in LA. Later, we Googled what “TVR13” on the back of his head stood for… He was really nice.

What is so special about the canyon?

JJ: The city is pretty segregated so people from different social classes don’t usually see each other, but up there they do—and then it actually turns out everyone can get along. There were some obvious millionaires chatting to people who obviously weren’t millionaires, talking about the weather like everyone does.

“Canyon” releases 12 June 2015 and can be pre-ordered through Ditto Press. The book’s launch party is tonight at London’s Ditto Press (4 Benyon Road N1 5TY) from 7PM.

Images courtesy of Josh Jones and Dan Wilton


More stories like this one.