image78

This work was created during an Australia Council Residency at 18th Street Arts Center, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, where I worked with John Malpede and Henriette Brouwers, the directors of Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD). John and Henriette were running their Summer Workshop ChangeXchange held at the Church of the Nazarene on Skid Row and also continuing their long term project—Glimpses of Utopia—a series of 'events' that focused on the revitalization and development of downtown Los Angeles.

Thousands of people—families, grandmothers, pets—were living on the streets in trolleys and cardboard boxes on Skid Row. Huge buildings, empty jewels of potential, loomed over this street life. No longer available as affordable accommodation they had become the focus of developers who wished to create a new lifestyle for downtown LA, but definitely didn’t involve indigents being visible.

Part of my time at the workshop was spent attending community meetings between police, business owners and members of Skid Row as well as working for Los Angeles Community Action Network as a photographer of police activity in Skid Row. (The Los Angeles Police Department is based in the heart of Skid Row and they were policing the area as part of a new social policy generated by real estate markets).

Their process of 'criminalising poverty' was through the systematic 'ticketing' and sometimes arresting of people for sitting, standing, jaywalking, throwing cigarette butts on the ground, prostitution or drug use. It was seen as a way to ‘stamp out crime’ and keep people moving from street to street. Many people living on Skid Row had wads of tickets for simple things like crossing the road outside the white lines. These tickets meant going to court and paying fines—neither of which they could oblige—and most people living on Skid Row knew they were doomed to be arrested and imprisoned at some point.