A Trip to the Salton Sea by Erin Whitney

I first learned about the Salton Sea via a 99% Invisible episode and since then it’s been on my list of places in Southern California to visit. I have to say, I didn’t anticipate how large the sea was and how long it would take to make it just from the Visitor’s Center to Slab City, much less any other cool abandoned stuff around the perimeter of the sea.

When we stopped at the Visitor’s Center, it was hot, bright, and spookily silent.


Driving toward Salvation Mountain, we came across a town that had a lot of striking abandoned buildings.

Salvation Mountain was a trip. This guy painted the sand and local people maintain the site.

On the way back, we stopped at the Ski Inn, the coolest dive in Bombay Bay (and surrounding area). The bartender was so nice and the food was excellent. They have regional beers on tap and the beer-battered pickles and homemade ranch were killer. There’s a tradition of writing your name on a dollar bill and attaching it to the walls and ceilings, so we were happy to contribute.

Walking Around Los Feliz by Erin Whitney

This is from a few months ago, but I haven’t been taking too many photos lately. Why does trash look beautiful to me all the time? I think a lot about how places look now and what they must have been like when in use. I can’t remember where I read this, but it seems as though places built by humans must need human habitation to stay lived-in, otherwise the earth tries to claim them again.

Autumn Evening at Petit Trianon by Erin Whitney

When visiting historical places, I like to feel the vibe of the place around me and envision what the people who lived there might have experienced. Figures like Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were infamous for the splendor of their surroundings and they way they may have mishandled political dealings during a tempestuous time in history, but they were also people who lived somewhere. The Petit Trianon is a smaller palace, removed from the courtly etiquette of life at Versailles proper, where Marie Antoinette would have been able to have more a private life. Visiting felt like an intimate portal into the daily life of the woman who had become Queen of France.

In this collection of photos, I try to imagine what Marie Antoinette’s life was like during the waning days of the French monarchy. Was she oblivious? Afraid? Resigned? Did she find spending autumn at the Petit Trianon gloomy or romantic, with the windows of her private apartments looking out over the manicured English gardens and interiors illuminated by candlelight? When I visited Versailles last November, I felt the power of the memories, experiences, and ghosts of this place.

Cooling Griffith Park Oasis by Erin Whitney

Today the air was Autumnal but the sun still burned down. We went for a short hike in the shade of Griffith Park and found a creek trickling through lush tropical plants. What had started out as an intense day slowed down as I listened to the sound of water and breathed in fresh, clean earth.

We saw waterfalls, pools with tiny crayfish and polywogs, turtles sitting in the sun, and dragonflies flitting by. We ended the hike with coffee, peach pie, and chocolate lavender scones at the Trails Cafe.

Getty Museum & Santa Monica Day Trip by Erin Whitney

A couple of weeks ago, a good friend of mine was in town from Seattle and really wanted to visit the Getty Museum. We and some local friends attended an architecture tour and I learned a few things about the design of the Getty Center. The architect, Richard Meier, worked with nearby homeowners to reach a mutual decision about design details. Known for his neutral color palette and use of metal, he had to make some alterations from his usual aesthetic for this project. The homeowners didn't want him to use black or white for the color palette and a certain majority percentage of the edifice had to be composed of stone. For this he chose both textured and smooth beige travertine tiles, which were imported from Italy and are often studded with fossils.

The site was built on a grid to reference the fact that the city of Los Angeles features a prominent grid. This grid is is reflected in the perfectly square tiles, straight lines of sight moving into the distance, and corridors into the various buildings of the site that frame a view of the surrounding mountainside. There are amazing views of the Pacific Ocean, San Bernadino and Santa Monica Mountains, and Los Angeles, and nature is also invited into the Center through gardens and clever uses of architecture (but not directly like bunnies or anything; a family of owls sees to that).

Design elements reference classical architecture, such as the numerous archways, gardens, ponds, fountains, and terraces. Interior ceilings and walls are made up of myriad skylights and windows, to allow for natural light and bring the outdoors inside. Aside from the beige travertine and painted metal facade, the only color Meier used as a highlight was purple, to reflect the purple sage that tinted the Santa Monica Mountains at dusk. This purple appears in various shades from painted architectural elements to blossoms of cherry trees and lavender around the grounds.

After we left the Getty, we visited Santa Monica to catch the sunset.

See the photo essay on VSCO here

Learn more about the Getty architecture here

Barnsdall Art Park and Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House: Los Feliz, Los Angeles by Erin Whitney

Today I was feeling super disconnected from the LA experience. I've spent most of the last two months getting here, finding an apartment, and looking for jobs. Today my partner and I decided it was important to take a walk to a park in our neighborhood we were curious about, Barnsdall Art Park.

I didn't know that the park was the site of architect Frank Lloyd Wright's first Southern Californian home, which he dubbed California Romanza, and which eventually came to be called Hollyhock House, after patron Aline Barnsdall's favorite flower. Wright is one of my favorite architects, so encountering one of his buildings was a completely unexpected surprise. The experience really helped to ground me and remind me of why I moved to LA. LA is a real-deal city full of hidden magic and ostentatious glamour. I love that you can dig as deep as you want and discover new things in the most mundane places you pass by on your way somewhere else.

I took some photos and decided to experiment with creating a photo essay in VSCO, the app I generally use to edit my photos. Click through to take a look: Barnsdall Art Park and Frank Lloyd Wright's Hollyhock House: Los Feliz, Los Angeles.