Indepth Arts News: |
"To Protect and Serve: The L.A.P.D. Archives - One Hundred Years of Photography"
2001-09-01 until 2001-09-30
Los Angeles, CA,
USA United States of America
During the last hundred years, the Los Angeles Police Department has
stored tens of thousands of negatives and prints taken by police
photographers. The images of crime scenes, training aides and ceremonial
events have been stored in locked steel case file cabinets, and in the
back rooms and basements of the city archives. Most have never been
published or even viewed by anyone outside of the police department.
Still, shown together, they are immediately familiar as the
out-of-the-margins face of Los Angeles.
In September, Fototeka Gallery will present To Protect and Serve: The
LAPD Archives - One Hundred Years of Photography, guest curated by Tim
Wride, associate curator of photography from the Los Angeles County Museum
of Art (LACMA). The exhibition will be the first public showing ever
mounted from these rare archives. It will include images dating from the
late 1800ís to the 1970s.
Recognizable in the many of the black and white police archive prints is
the world of James Ellroy and Raymond Chandler as well as innocence and
formality that no longer seems to exist in representations of the LAPD.
Two of the selections in The LAPD Archives show elaborately staged crime
scenes, meant originally for training purposes, but which now look like
still lives. In 1953 photograph, a woman in evening dress and pearls lies
dead. She is surrounded by clues, which lie on the ground in a loose
circle around her: a camera, turkey carving knife, purse, trunk, gloves,
frying pan, overturned vase with flowers, a length of rope, hat and a
bound volume with gold-tipped pages.
Other crime scenes show Police Officers interacting with suspects or with
the public: one series of photographs, taken in daylight, shows a young
white patrolman smiling and conversing with three Latino children, two
girls and a boy, all of whom wear Halloween masks. Perhaps incidentally,
the sky is threateningly dark; it looks as though a tornado is about to
tear through the city while the children are trick-or-treating.
In many ways, police work is -- or should be -- the antithesis of theater,
a job that deals with reality at its hardest, trying always to get behind
the appearance of things, to reveal the truth. In these photographs, the
very nature of the subject -- the LAPD documenting its own methods and
values -- adds a layer of complexity and shadow to these images charged
with history. It could be said that the artist who produced the archives
is the city of Los Angeles.