Los Angeles is the city where everyone drives and no one walks, and cruising in a car becomes a kind of strolling on four wheels. And now this book, the title of which is a bit provocative and which almost has a touch of the forbidden, but always that of adventure: “I’ve been walking”. But it’s different.

Freddy Langer

Editor in the features section, responsible for the “Reiseblatt”.

A number of broken bones and a whole series of operations initially confined the writer and photographer Janet Sternburg to her bed for a long time, and then she was banished to a wheelchair. It was only after endless sessions with physiotherapists that she gradually managed to stand and walk again. And that was in March 2020 of all times, when people were asked not to leave their homes if possible because of the pandemic.

Janet Sternburg went outside anyway. It must have been a kind of rebirth for her. And maybe that’s why she kept capturing details with her camera that give the impression that the world is crumbling into shapes and surfaces, sometimes so radically separated from each other as if cut with a scalpel, or it’s the other way around: Then things collide that have nothing to do with each other have to do. But when she looks into the window with her camera, inside and outside flow inseparably into one another and create a new world, a different world that puts the viewer in a state of limbo, far from any stop.

Janet Sternburg traveled all over the Greater Los Angeles region, from the north of the city, the Green Valley, made of dubious fame by the bush fires a few years ago, far down south to Point Fermin near the Pacific. But very few of their recordings can be localized. The building of the “Los Angeles Times” can be seen in one picture. And on the door with the sign “Closed to the Public until further notice” is a small reference to the Bradbury Building. The rest of the city serves as a treasure trove for motifs that often tend towards abstraction, for which she refrains from using the term “spiritual”, as she explains in an interview, because she fears ending up in a cliché.

Leap, 2020

picture series

On a photo hunt

Los Angeles at its low key

“I’ve Been Walking” is a reserved book, not marked by hints of a stormy departure, but by restrained melancholy. Even under the shimmering sun of Southern California, the colors in Janet Sternburg’s pictures remain surprisingly pale. Pastel tones prevail. And where road workers were in the process of painting the curb in bright red, they stopped their work after a meter, as if they themselves had not been comfortable with the glow.

Most of the time, then, Janet Sternburg focuses on faded facades, rusted signs, or chipped paint, and you wouldn’t know she was roaming around Los Angeles had she not spotted a spherical gas tank that, years ago, someone with a now crumbling paint job sculpted of a globe. Only the arrow pointing to Los Angeles is perfectly preserved – along with the note: “You are here”.

„I’ve been walking – Los Angeles Photographs” by Janet Sternburg. With texts by Janet Sternburg and Jane Bennett. Distance Verlag, Berlin 2021. 144 pages, numerous color photos. Bound, 40 euros.

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