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 people, places, and animals of “ZZYZX” did exist before Halpern’s (*1977) 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 collapse from the weight of its own strangely-shaped mass.