What do you get when you send two mates, one a photographer with camera in hand, and the other a journalist with an eye for a weird story, to LA to hang out for a week? In the case of Dan Wilton and Josh Jones, the answer is a book. More specifically, a book about the spectacularly weird collection of people you can find at the top of Runyon Canyon.
The collaboration came about more or less by accident. “Dan was already out there on another shoot and I was on a last minute, flying visit,” Josh explains. “We decided to grab an airbnb and hang out for a week. I really like LA – a lot of people told me I’d hate it when I first visited, but it’s one of the few cities outside of London I’ve felt absolutely at home in.”
As for photographing Runyon Canyon itself, the pair had an idea that they wanted to collaborate on a project, but they didn’t have a clear idea of what. “I think it was the morning Josh was landing,” Dan says. “I was checking out a map and realised that I could walk up through Runyon to Mulholland Drive. I’d never been, and who doesn’t want to check out Mulholland Drive? So I set off with a camera, no sunscreen and far too little water…
“Halfway up I met Haylee and Michelle and their matching dip-dyed dogs. They piqued my interest. And then at the top the variety of people up there, all staring out at the view (well, the smog) became apparent. The idea came from that first arid, dry mouthed, slightly sunburnt hike. (We took lots of water up the next time.)”
“Can you imagine doing this in London? While you’re in the middle of a run, you’re covered in sweat, you’re out of breath and I pop out of a bush in Victoria Park with a massive camera, and I want to take ten minutes of your time to pose you for a portrait. No. Chance.”
Meeting fitness fanatics, hippies, millionaires and gangsters, among others, Josh and Dan took to interviewing and photographing their acquaintances respectively. “They were all interesting,” Josh says, “weed farmers, wannabe models, jaded actors, ex-Playboy Bunnies, postal workers, interior designers. I guess Miles who made motivational body building videos was pretty fun. He’s the only person we’ve met who networks topless while doing push ups. That guy never stops his hustle.”
“I wouldn’t know where to start, and I certainly wouldn’t want to pick favourites!” Dan continues. “Everyone was a joy to photograph. There’s definitely something quite refreshing about shooting a project like this in LA. People are really proud of who they are and how they look there. You could view it as vanity of course, but I found everyone very open and keen to be involved.”
In some respects, the openness of their subjects made the project, Dan says. “Can you imagine doing this in London? While you’re in the middle of a run, you’re covered in sweat, you’re out of breath and I pop out of a bush in Victoria Park with a massive camera, and I want to take ten minutes of your time to pose you for a portrait. No. Chance.”
Canyon by Dan Wilton and Josh Jones is available now from Ditto Press.
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