I just want to begin by saying that I love 365-day photo challenges. Let’s be honest, can 60-day workouts, Whole 30, and 7-day cleanses really top 365 days of intentionally taking photos? I think there’s a certain level of commitment, resolve, and possibly insanity to commit to 365 days of anything. I once tried a 365-day photo challenge several years ago with nothing more than an old school iPhone, and I think I made it all of about 3 days. And then Instagram came along, and 365 photo challenges became trendy.

My hesitancy in doing a challenge like this has in part been because I’ve probably taken at least one photo per day for the last few years (often much more). And while I’d want to be intentional about taking photos for a challenge like this, I was afraid it’d make me lazy, remembering to take a photo as I lay in bed, only to run out of my bedroom to take a photo of my lamp or record player (yes, I really have one). Yet here I am on day 5 of a 365-day photo challenge. Except this is not just a challenge to take a photo per day, but rather a photo per day in Los Angeles that’s in black and white.

L.A. in Black and White Photos: Union Station

The impetus actually came on New Year’s Day, when I was taking a long walk, as I often do on New Year’s Day every year. I was thinking about what I wanted to accomplish this year, and at the top of the list was becoming a better photographer, evidenced already by upgrading cameras the day before. But a new camera doesn’t make anyone a better photographer than a new pen and notebook makes someone a better writer. And then I thought that there was no better year to do a 365-day photo challenge than this year, lest I use new camera gear as a crutch.

Yet if I was going to do a challenge, I wanted it to actually challenge me. And so here I am, setting the intention to make it a year of urban, black and white photos. I can probably count on one hand the number of urban, black and white photos I have in my archive. Challenge accepted.

This challenge is important to me for a number of reasons. One, it’s because Los Angeles is one of the most special places in the world to me. It’s home, and home like no other place has ever been.

But what’s more, a black and white Los Angeles is the window through which I originally viewed Los Angeles when thinking about moving here. My introduction to Los Angeles was pre-prohibition and prohibition-era Los Angeles. It began one weekend night several years ago, bellying up to some of the same restaurants and bars that were open during prohibition, like Cole’s. Under the surface, I found this edgy, yet laid back, cultured, yet unpretentious side to the City of Angels that I hadn’t found on other trips. But it’s a part of L.A. that had been there for decades, and one that I had become fascinated with as a kid, thumbing through pages and pages about Los Angeles’ mob history as I sat in elementary school

Cole's bar downtown Los Angeles

On that trip several years ago, I began discovering places like pre-prohibition era underground tunnels, scores of bars that had been operating as speakeasies during prohibition, the prehistoric La Brea Tar Pits, the hidden stairs of Hollywood, and Orpheum Theatre. They were places first documented without color. And this was an L.A. that had been remiss from my images of L.A. during U.S. history class and from my childhood watching Beverly Hills Cop, Blade Runner, the Oscars, and O.J. Simpson chase.

Ultimately, this 365-day photo project feels like the perfect balance of passion and challenge. Just a few days in, and it has me seeing my home through a different lens. My first few days of 2018 have already felt so intentional, and this project has been as much a way of life as eating breakfast or showering. Instead of it being the last thing I think about when I go to bed, it’s the first thing, in which I’ve been asking myself, “How will I picture L.A. in black and white today?” Let’s do this 2018.

Week 1: L.A. in Black and White Photos