In Our Path

Photo of freeway's path through a community

Aerial photograph at early stages of freeway Construction. © Jeff Gates

In 1982 I began to photograph the beginnings of the “Century Freeway” (I-105), the “last freeway” to be built in Los Angeles. Initially, I had no idea what was taking place on this swath of land. Middle class houses were empty and the suburban streets were silent. At first, I only wanted to capture this sense of “abandoned suburbia” I saw and felt. As such, In Our Path began as a very personal response to home and environment. However, it soon took on different and broader meanings.

As I photographed I became acquainted with the history of this public project and with the people who lived within and along the Corridor. I had come upon a scene that was in limbo. The NAACP, the Sierra Club, and local homeowners had filled an injunction to stop the road’s construction. I photographed this area during the seven years it took for the case to be adjudicated by the courts and the Final Consent Decree issued.

Originally scheduled to be completed by 1980, the Century Freeway (a name that is no longer used to designate the highway) finally opened in October of 1993. In 1990, after seeing In Our Path, Hall & Associates (the successor to the Center for Law in the Public Interest in the Century Freeway litigation and the firm which represented homeowners in this case) commissioned me to rephotograph the freeway. I returned to the Corridor to see the changes that had occurred since I last photographed there and began to document the physical transformations as well as the effects of the court’s Final Consent Decree.

The end result was two portfolios of photographs, taken approximately ten years apart. In 1990 I was awarded a National Endowment Visual Artists Grant for the first body of work. In 2007 The Huntington Library in San Marino, California purchased this work for their collection. It is a fitting home for these photographs as the Huntington is an archive of Southern California history and photography. In June 2008 In Our Path was included in an exhibition at the Huntington on the history of Los Angeles photography entitled This Side of Paradise: Body and Landscape in L.A.

© 2001-2018 Jeff Gates ISSN 1544-4074