The stark side of sunny LA in a book of contrasts


Back in 2002, photographer Nicholas Alan Cope picked up his camera and moved across the country from Maryland to Los Angeles, the city he documents in his new book “Whitewash.” Cope’s LA is one of stark geometric architecture rendered in black and white, a far cry from the colorful Hollywood glitz the city so often tries to project.

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By harnessing the bright, Southern California sun, Cope is able to capture the brightest whites and the darkest blacks, often with little gray in between. The result is a collection of urban landscapes that look more like Cubist paintings than Modernist architecture. His camera breaks down these buildings into their most basic forms, disrupting what first comes to mind when you think of a “building.” Distinctions like wall and doorway, window and roof, give way to the more simple categories of light and dark.


In the foreword to “Whitewash,” pioneering fashion designer Rick Owens explains his own sentiments about both LA and the way Cope has captured the City of Angels. “I moved to Paris from Los Angeles 10 years ago and haven’t been back since. But this is exactly how I remember it,” writes Owens. “This kind of light makes decisions easier. More black and white. Good vs. bad, pure vs. impure, aspiration vs. collapse. Determined grim optimism vs. self indulgent despair.”

And it’s precisely this coexistence of opposing forces that comes across in Cope’s photographs. Los Angeles is a city of distinct neighborhoods, each with its own flavor and culture. Cope strips his subjects of these contexts, instead giving us shapes and places that could play host to almost anyone and anything. Each building is forced to tell us its story plainly, in simple black and white.


Whitewash is available for preorder from powerHouse books and Amazon. In conjunction with the launch, NYC’s Mondo Cane will be exhibiting select images from the book from 28 March through 3 April 2013.

Images courtesy of powerHouse Books