These photographs were made on the Solstices and Equinoxes of 2012 and 2013. They were made wherever we happened to be—our home, travelling, or wherever we found ourselves on those four days of the year.
While photographing, we thought loosely about time, about what time looks like to each of us—time of day, time of year, time in the sense of a lifespan. Not surprisingly, certain themes recurred—birth and death, transition and renewal, lightness and darkness.
The title is borrowed from a Norwegian folk tale. We liked the idea of trying to rely on two continually shifting landmarks as navigational guides, how disorienting that idea is, and how it creates an elusive or impossible place.
The early settlers dubbed California The Golden State, and The Land of Milk and Honey. Today there are the obvious ironies – sprawl, spaghetti junctions and skid row—but the place is not so easily distilled or visualized, either as a clichéd paradise or as its demise. There’s a strange kind of harmony when it’s all seen together—the sublime, the psychedelic, the self-destructive. Like all places, it’s unpredictable and contradictory, but to greater extremes. Cultures and histories coexist, the beautiful sits next to the ugly, the redemptive next to the despairing, and all under a strange and singular light, as transcendent as it is harsh.
The pictures in this book begin in the desert east of Los Angeles and move west through the city, ending at the Pacific. This general westward movement alludes to a thirst for water, as well as the original expansion of America, which was born in the East and which hungrily drove itself West until reaching the Pacific, thereby fulfilling its “manifest” destiny.
The people, places, and animals in the book did exist before Halpern’s camera, but he has sewn these photographs into a work of fiction or fantasy—a structure, sequence and edit which, like Los Angeles itself, teeters on the brink of collapsing under the weight of its own strangely-shaped mass.
Gregory Halpern was born in Buffalo, New York. He holds a BA from Harvard University and an MFA from California College of the Arts. In 2014 he was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship. He currently teaches photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology. For editorial or commercial inquiries, please contact Tom Claxton.