These past couple of years have been a huge transformation in the way we go about our daily lives. It was not until recently that many of us started to get used to what was once familiar. This trip to Los Angeles was the studio’s first project abroad since the pandemic and it felt as if we were put in place to learn something new again—adjusting ourselves to this “post-pandemic” life.
While being at an airport can come with some uncertainty nowadays, there is also this sense of comfort when seeing people go about their lives in typical airport fashion. Some reading books, others propping their legs up on their luggages and listening to music with their neck pillow tightly wrapped.
I haven’t been back to LA since I was a teenager. Arriving for the first time as an adult, I felt myself going in with a different perspective, welcoming the idea that I was visiting this city with fresh eyes. We arrived in the late afternoon and went into our rented vehicle, anticipating heavy traffic along the way to our next destination. While we didn’t have much opportunity to casually wander, we were able to grab ourselves hōjicha lattes and take them along with us to the Art District.
The next morning, we met with our LA-based friends and creative team, Ja Tecson (photographer) and Rosanna Peng (director), at a little coffee shop near Playa Del Rey Beach. We were actually considering this place as a potential area to shoot, so we scouted the area during our visit. It’s a beautifully calm location with sand to road parking, soft ocean waves, and bird footprints on the freshly swept sand.
For this trip, we were on assignment to shoot the LOJEL 2022 campaign, with an aim to capture this aspect of “moving to connect”—how we commute and travel everyday to make connections. We wanted to showcase the importance of community within a city, and thought LA was the perfect location for this, considering it has so much to offer.
For the first shoot day, we met up with Jazzi McGilbert. Jazzi is the owner of an independent LA bookstore called Reparations Club. This bookstore is special in the sense that it not only offers a diverse range of books, but also provides an all-inclusive learning space with a circulation of important literature, events, resources, and cultural creations. The front of the building has a door painted in their iconic signature yellow, along with a cozy interior thoughtfully curated with original multi-coloured checkered flooring. It was heartwarming to hear her story and get a chance to see old film photos of her family that she was in the process of collaging on the large mirror in the shop.
Located in a quiet area in LA is the home of our second talent, Shin Okuda — a skilled craftsman of furniture and functional objects, and owner of Waka Waka Studios. Shin welcomed us into his beautiful home to shoot his portion of the project. From the front gate to the backyard where we had entered, every corner was decorated in such a thoughtful way and you couldn’t help but view it like a piece of art. The next shooting location was at Waka Waka. There was a multitude of things to see — planks of colourful plywood propped up against a wall, organized tools placed throughout, and in-progress pieces sitting in different spots of the shop. It’s inspiring when someone welcomes you into their creative space, and by working with such a talented team, we were able to take this inspiration and connect it with our vision for the project.
We often ended our nights driving through LA, maneuvering through the (many) highways and streets. I spent these drives looking out at the sleepy neighbourhoods we passed through, trying to remember the small details that you take home from any trip to an unknown place.
Our last morning in LA was spent catching up with our friends Rich and Rosa and baby Turner, who had just relocated to LA in the last year. Rosa was just weeks away from opening up Francis Gallery Los Angeles. How she was able to move to another country with a toddler and open up a new location all in one year is simply astounding.
Los Angeles is a place that continues to surprise us. Sure, the traffic is getting worse, and each day felt hotter than the one before it, but within those grid-locked highways and sweaty afternoons is a city full of energy—eager to create, connect and always on the move.