"People talk a lot about the light quality of Southern California. It's like a singular quality, and everyone describes it in their own way," says photographer Tim Bradley.
Originally from the midwest, Bradley came out to California when he was 19 years old to attend art school. Like many transplants, according to Bradley, he did not like California at all. So in an effort to acclimate, he began taking photographs of glamorously-lit apartment buildings at night, which he found comical. Many buildings had "theatrical lighting and some of the buildings even had names... but they were basically a post-war stucco box."
One of the photographs, "Untitled (Stardust Jungle)," illustrates this quintessentially Southern Californian theatricality Bradley refers to. In it, an apartment complex appears staged as if for a movie — with neon green building lights illuminating front lawn palmtrees and the building's title.
In an age where Instagram has popularized retro-filters and Polaroid cameras are enjoying an (albeit re-designed) revival , Bradley's exhibition, "California Dwelling", is a meditation both on the era when the images were taken and the one in which they're being displayed — authentic and retro chic. The show will feature 11 of the original 100 negatives Bradley photographed between the years 1978 to 1981.
"I like the fact that [the photographs] can bridge that. That they can both look current and look a little retro," Bradley said in response to his exhibition's current feel. While the feel may seem retro-inspired, Bradley shot them over thirty years ago. He recently went to revisit the locations of some of the landscapes of "California Dwelling."
"There's just this swoony collapse of time," he said. "It's very interesting to have the opportunity to stand in the same place and look at that place and see that either it's the same or altered or completely changed. It's one of the great things about photography. We get a permanent record of things that are ephemeral."
He describes the prints as being "about a sense of place, a sort of ethereal view of iconic neighborhood landscapes from California." Each image accentuates the subtelties of suburban homes and apartment buildings that are still in existence thoughout many pockets of Southern California. Bradley found that the building featured in "Untitled (400 Apartment Building at night)," currently remains untouched, the building is the same, but the cars underneath it have changed.
Summarizing the show, Bradley said "the layering of old bungalows, postwar apartments, vintage cars and traces of contemporary suburban life made the places look like no one knew what decade it was. Sunlit pastel surfaces and night views with illuminated facades and impossible shadows projected a feeling of theatricality.”
A transplant to California, Bradley has fallen in love with what he now considers his homestate. The photographs he took illustrate a boy from the midwest's attempt to pin down the elusive atmospheric quality of California and make 'her' his.
"California Dwelling" opens December 1st at the Craig Krull Gallery. An opening reception will take place from 4-6pm.