Saturday, August 2, 2008

Southern California In Kodachrome

Charles Phoenix is a thrift store addict and an everyday history buff.
As he recalls in his book Southern Californialand - Mid-Century Culture in Kodachrome, Phoenix first visited a thrift store in 1977. "It didn't take long for me to realize that thrift shops were the seductive underbelly of our mass consumer culture," he writes.

Sixteen years later, while browsing a little store in Pasadena, Phoenix came upon a "most unexpected treasure" that would change the course of his life. "It was an old blue shoe box [with] dozens of 35mm Kodachrome slides of some anonymous family's vacation. I knew I'd found a time machine in a box." A passion was born.

Phoenix has been tirelessly casing thrift stores and estate sales ever since, and has not been disappointed. In this part of the country better known for dealing with history by destroying it, Phoenix has found boxes after boxes of amateur Kodachrome slides that tell the average Joes' stories of mid-Century life in California. He chronicles them in his popular semi-fictional shows, and in several books.

"Southern California's collective history is all here in rich, clear Kodachrome, thanks to the the families who unwittingly documented an era and then cast away the records of the times of their lives," Phoenix writes. A total, somehow funky treat.

Above, scans from the Southerm Californialand book:
- 1956: Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz in Pasadena
- 1962: Poolside in Encino
- 1963: Engine problems in Bunker Hill L.A.
- 1950: First TV set in El Monte
- 1960: Backyard BBQ in Arcadia