Mark Ruwedel’s new book, “Seventy-Two and One Half Miles Across Los Angeles,” (MACK, 2021) is a perfect example. Because I studied photojournalism, I was inundated with imagery that focused on people and their interactions. For some time, I avoided photographs that didn’t have this focus. That means I never paid much attention to, say, landscape photography. Ruwedel is mostly known for his landscapes, and it makes sense that I never would have come across his work with the mind-set ingrained in me from school.
In fact, I came across Ruwedel’s new book only because it appeared in my mailbox one day, a total surprise. But as soon as I opened the book, I was hooked. It’s not only a book of landscapes. No, it goes beyond that. Looking at the images one after another, you start to slowly understand that, collectively, it is a portrait of Los Angeles. There is beauty there, and even humor, at least in my reading of it. Upon further inspection, I find that the book is also a portrait of Ruwedel himself.
For three years, Ruwedel traversed the streets of Los Angeles, following in the footsteps of Nigel Raab, a friend and author. The route Ruwedel traveled was 72.5 miles long, beginning at his house in Westchester and ending at the Metro station in San Bernardino. According to the publisher of the book, the route was chosen so that “as many geographic, economic, political and cultural boundaries” would be crossed.
Interestingly enough, Raab writes the following about the journey the two men took across Los Angeles: “As time slipped by, I passed sun-bleached and stuccoed homes with empty front lawns; no one was on the porch ready with a friendly wave as I walked by. The walk was, in fact, an exercise in solitude because few Angelenos take advantage of their extensive sidewalks.”
An exercise in solitude. What a wonderful thing. At least it is to me. I’m a natural introvert, and I love spending time by myself, in contemplation. As a boy, I would roam around the Southeast Asian city in which I lived, getting lost in back alleys, visiting old lighthouses and churches and gardens.
Once I returned to the United States, I felt suffocated by the need to get into a car to go anywhere. That was soon remedied after I graduated from school and eventually made my way to living in cities from New York to Chicago to Seattle and then back east here in the D.C. area. For me, Ruwedel’s book brings back all the joy I felt in roaming, rapt in contemplation. “Seventy-Two and One Half Miles Across Los Angeles” is far more than just a collection of landscape images.
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