Los Angeles is a culture driven by the automobile. Jason Knight‘s photo series titled Dead Man’s Curve, documents a vehicular graveyard off Mulholland Drive. Despite or perhaps because of the metal carnage, an environ dense in flora and fauna thrive.
Force Stop. Responding to rumors of cars dotting the hillside, I had spent two days looking for them on this hillside off Mulholland Drive. I was about to stop for the day, once again unsuccessful in my hunt, when I saw a little color on the distant hillside that did not quite fit in. After scrambling up the hillside, this was my first view of the Phantom Dodge.
The Phantom Dodge. On the right, rear panel, I discovered the faded remains of what was likely a stencil painting, naming the car: The Phantom Dodge. It now ironically represents it’s name.
Pulling for Success, Gathering Nutrients. Over the years, all organic matter in the car had disintegrated and returned to the earth, leaving only the bones of the car, the rusted core of the steering wheel, springs from the seat, and the frame of the body itself.
Drive Through. Climbing into the car, I sit in the passenger’s seat. I am struck by the view through what was once the front windshield. The Phantom Dodge continues it’s journey, but the actors now have switched roles. Inside the car, we are frozen in time. Outside, the world moves, not us. The seasons change. This view of hope and life will shift in a few months but for now, we are driving through nature herself.
Regrowth. In it’s death, the car provides new opportunities for life. Vegetation benefits from it’s structure, seeking the sun. Like a sunken ship, this car is now the reef, providing structure for plants and shelter for a family of rabbits.
Dead Man’s Curve. Further up the hillside from this wreck, I can barely make out shapes that are too perfect to be organic in origin. It is almost impossible to see from below, I can make out the wheels of this car, now resting on it’s back. As I approach, I see that the car is surrounded by vines, I am left with the impression that the earth is very slowly swallowing it.
Left Option/ Open the Trunk/ In Dropsy. I know there must be more cars, but the sun is setting. I fear a repeat of my first attempt to find the cars. On that trip, I had arrived before sunset, hoping to find the cars and capture them in the fading pinks and baby blues of a Los Angeles sunset. I had overstayed my welcome and finding no cars, I was left in the dark. Climbing almost vertically out of the canyon, shale crumbling under my hands. I had learned a lesson about who is stronger.
Still determined, I returned weeks later with some friends. It was suggested that we follow a creekbed from the trail to Mulholland. I would later discover that we were already walking just above the metal remains of numerous cars. That day, we discovered three cars. This is one of them, it looked a little younger than the others. Flipped on it’s back, the trunk had popped open. The shadows caused the trunk to appear as a deep cave, as if I could walk for miles in that trunk.
A New Hope. Despite our best efforts to separate and distance ourselves from this world, she has a plan for us. We will all return to her, all of our artifacts, all of our machines will eventually return to her. Perhaps we won’t destroy her after all. As we destroy ourselves, she simply chooses to grow out of our remains.
Featured image: Jason Knight, Open the Trunk, from the series Dead Man’s Curve Elegence Giclee Fine Art Paper, 31” x 21”, 2009