The Bright Lights of Los Angeles Past and Present

Nov 04, 2009 by Lisa Newton

LA - 1908

The photograph above was taken in 1908. With a 1 hour exposure set by the photographer, 5000 feet atop Mount Wilson, the shot using the dark hues and tonality of black and white. It captures Los Angeles’ main arterial roads of that time, but provides a striking night view of the city’s evening outdoor lights.  The distance of the brightest lights from the photographer’s vantage point, is 20 miles away.

LA - 1988

This photograph was shot in 1988, and was also taken from Mt. Wilson at approximately the same location as the 1908 photo. Its 15-second exposure compares and contrasts the dramatic and spectacular growth of the Los Angeles basin at night.  The intersection of Lake Avenue and Colorado Boulevard in the City of Pasadena are in the foreground; with the Los Angeles Civic Center area in the middle of the photograph. The photograph is also quite artistic with its amalgam of colors, lines, and forms.

What an amazing difference 80 years makes. Both photographs are courtesy of The George A. Eslinger Street Lighting Photo Gallery, which also has a great photo exhibit of the various street light designs throughout the decades.

Imagine flying into LAX during the evening. After landing, you’d know that when Travelin’ Local here in Los Angeles, the term “Bright Lights, Big City” would aptly apply.

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6 Responses to “The Bright Lights of Los Angeles Past and Present”

  1. Kim says:

    Lisa.. this is sooo cool.. I cannot get over the growth.. WOW.. great post.. I really enjoyed this one..


    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Kim, Thanks, Kim. I was also amazed at the difference.


  2. David says:

    Fabulous contrast in both the growth of Los Angeles, and how it was juxtaposed by with the two different photographs.

    I love the 2nd one, it’s dynamic and exemplifies the entire point of your story.


    LisaNewton Reply:

    @David, Thanks, David. Times sure are a’changin’.


  3. Will Campbell says:

    Our house in Silver Lake was but two years old at the time of that amazing first photo, situated somewhere within that blob of light back then. As an L.A. native there’s something special about knowing I live so near the heart of the city.


    LisaNewton Reply:

    @Will Campbell, Special indeed. You have a great vantage point. I haven’t been to the Silver Lake area yet, but it’s on my long list. :)


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