Under Bright Lights

David Allee’s latest photographs capture out-of-context urban objects in an otherworldly glow.

You will not find Fearless Park on any map, but if you drive by it on I-605 you cannot miss it. A billboard that looms over Barnes Park, about 15 miles west of Los Angeles, is the subject of David Allee’s photograph, one of a series of ten images in his newest exhibition, Cross Lands. All of the pictures capture locations—mostly anonymous—compromised by poor urban planning where large-scale structures have been awkwardly imposed on the landscape with little thought for context, sometimes because there is no other choice.

On film the offending structures are beautifully illuminated, giving them a haunting otherworldly presence. Allee opens his shutter from five to 20 minutes, depending on the conditions—too much time to document people but plenty to expose the impact these edifices have on their surroundings. The photographer, who did a seven-year stint as an urban planner, has long explored the effects of light on the built environment (see White Nights, May 2003). But this background is even more evident in Allee’s newest images, which document the unfortunate condition of cities that grow too rapidly without proper planning. “I hope these pictures have lessons that might be applied to the search for a more humane and fluid urbanism,” he says.

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