Los Angeles possesses a magical quality. Its just-right mix of sun, sand, culture, shopping, laid-back vibe, glamour and celebrities casts a spell on people — L.A. attracts 45.5 million visitors and year and is the most-populated region in California (it also made our list of the 12 top destinations to visit in 2017).
To capture all of these fascinating facets, we turned to L.A. photographer L Lawson, also known by his Instagram handle, @thelightrecord, to show us his city through his lens.
The New Jersey transplant felt the pull of L.A. ever since his first visit at age 14. Lawson was so taken by the city, that this is his third time living there.
“The quality of life in L.A. is much better for the aspirant — it is also the perfect place to start again,” he says. “My first two moves out here were for education; the most recent one was for my career. I am attracted to persistent sunshine, warm weather and living in the most progressive, open-minded major city in the United States.”
The Beverly Hills resident also finds endless activities around him. “My favorite thing to do in L.A. is to spend the day at the Getty Center enjoying art, architecture and the luscious gardens,” he says. “At night, I often go to the Comedy Store on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood to see live comedy — you never know who is going to show up and try out new material.”
His choice place to shoot photos is at San Pedro’s Korean Bell of Friendship. “Perched on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this site is perfectly situated to receive the light of the magic hour at both sunrise and sunset,” Lawson says.
“The pagoda that houses the bell is from another time and place, yet makes its home so comfortably where it is. The Bell of Friendship is much more of a local destination than a tourist spot, but for me, it is very special indeed.”
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“The Griffith Observatory, built in 1935, is located on the southern slope of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park. The park and its surrounding hills feature an amazing network of hiking trails that offer stunning views of Los Angeles. The observatory sits 1,134 feet above sea level and is the most-visited public observatory in the world.”
“The Santa Monica Pier was initially constructed in 1909 as part of a municipal waste program. During the 1920s, the city discontinued the use of a pipeline that was concealed beneath the pier to dispose of treated sewage.
Throughout its history, this site has endured great storms and numerous renovations. During the ’60s, it became a favorite spot of artists and activists such as Joan Baez, Jane Fonda and Charles Bukowski. During that era, several inhabitable apartments existed, making it a unique ocean-top community. Today, the pier floats over the Pacific Ocean like an amusement park castle and remains an ideal location to watch the sun descend on the sea.”
“When I studied photography in college, my professors always instructed me to get close to my subject matter. They never mentioned anything about FAA regulations, however.”
“This is my still-image homage to that time back in 2001 when David Lynch sunk his cinematic claws into our psyches with the film Mulholland Drive and never fully let go.”
“I first visited the Korean Bell of Friendship in San Pedro when I was 21 years old, and it had a lasting impression on me. Prior to this, I had never had a spiritual experience remotely like it.
There is something so special about this little-known bell pagoda in the South Bay area of L.A. County that overlooks the Port of Los Angeles to the south and the endless Pacific Ocean. I have continuously photographed here for the past 16 years.”
“The Getty Center is a free museum that features a phenomenal collection of changing art exhibitions spanning European and American history — from medieval times to the present.
With its awe-inspiring architecture, sweeping views and ever-evolving gardens, the Getty Center is one of the finest demonstrations of high culture in the entire country. Its presence is L.A. is one of my favorite benefits of living here.”
“Every city reveals itself differently when viewed from the sky. Seeing the City of Angels from the perspective offered from a helicopter — with the doors removed — is truly special!
Photographed here is the 101 Hollywood Freeway, which leads to downtown Los Angeles from the San Fernando Valley.”
“Manhattan Beach has become a very wealthy beach community, and residences in ‘the Pearl of the South Bay’ are among the highest in demand in California due to the desirable living conditions and splendid beaches.”
“The San Gabriel Mountains form a picturesque backdrop to the skyline of downtown Los Angeles.”
“Since 1928, Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills (A Four Seasons Hotel) has graced Wilshire Boulevard and iconic Rodeo Drive right in the heart of Beverly Hills. Since moving back to Los Angeles in 2015, Beverly Hills has been my adopted home and I have the pleasure to walk past this landmark almost every day, as I live just three blocks away.
While the name-brand boutiques that occupy the spaces on Rodeo Drive change like the seasons, the Beverly Wilshire persists as a classic, yet ultra-sleek, luxury fortress. It’s no wonder that the likes of John Lennon, Elvis Presley and Warren Beatty have made this their preferred address.”
“This legendary venue is one of the greatest places to see a sporting event in the United States. The Rose Bowl seats just over 92,000 and there is not a single bad seat in the stadium.
I attended the CONCACAF Cup, where the United States played against Mexico in an international soccer match in October of 2015. I will never forget the atmosphere of the match and seeing the orange light burn on the surrounding mountains as the sunset.
The stadium is set down into the earth so the playing field is much lower than the ground level around the stadium. This allows amazing views of the San Gabriel Mountains and it amplifies the crowd noise.”