You can smell the photographs of Larry Sultan. My wife noticed this before I did. She is a Western person (she grew up in Las Vegas). That’s to say, she’s a desert person, as am I (Los Angeles). So it makes sense that she could smell Sultan’s pictures. Most of the photographs of Larry Sultan (currently on display at LACMA’s retrospective Larry Sultan: Here and Home) are thick with the San Fernando Valley in North Los Angeles, where Sultan grew up.

Larry Sultan: Here and Home” at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Through March 22.

The San Fernando Valley, otherwise known to Angelinos simply as “The Valley,” is Ground Zero for West Coast suburbia. There are tract homes, model housing developments, vast stretches of concrete highway stretching out into the horizon. But if you look… More…

The strangeness starts with the Steven King fog — or, more accurately, with the cackling scarecrow demons that live in the fog. To get to Glastonbury Tor in time for the summer solstice sunrise, I leave London at midnight. Halfway there I’m gazing at the swirling Hammer Horror-movie mist with childlike wonder. I allow myself to hallucinate scythe-wielding straw men racing alongside me, through the twisting and rolling, silvery moonlit high-hedged English West Country lanes. It is horribly easy. And the closer to Glastonbury I get, the easier it becomes.

 

Any half-educated rationalist with access to a search engine could tell you that Glastonbury’s reputation as the ley-line criss-crossed hub of some mysteriously immeasurable Earth power is as bogus as the stories of King Arthur or the “ancient” Wiccan religion and the hundreds of other mumbo-jumbled New Age… More…

In the months leading up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq, I believed that my patriotic duty was to give up gasoline, so I stopped driving a car for a while and picked up a bike. I live in Los Angeles, a city known for traffic, freeways, and smog. But it’s a perfect place to ride a bike, too. The weather is beautiful and the streets are wide and mostly flat. Biking gave me a new perspective. I’d lived in Los Angeles for a decade already, but the city didn’t really snap into focus until I saw it from the saddle of my father’s 1968 Realm Rider 10-speed.

I saw things I’d never noticed, but most of all, the city stunk. Riding down the street was an olfactory deluge. The leaden stench emanating from automobiles and buses wasn’t the half of it. That was tolerable and expected, like the hamburger… More…