Contesting Erasure: William Reagh and Other Documentary Photographers of Urban Los Angeles, 1936-1990

Illustrated talk by Michael Dawson, Los Angeles rare book dealer and gallery owner
Founders Room, Honnold/Mudd Library
January 31, 2013 4:15-5:30

Michael Dawson's presentation traces the development of Southern California from the 1860s through the 1980s with a specific focus on the destruction of communities in Chavez Ravine and Bunker Hill. William Reagh and other photographers including Max Yavno, Don Normark, Arnold Hylen, and Theodore Hall sensed what was going to happen and made a visual record of neighborhoods before they were demolished. Dawson argues that these photographers created "an unarguably identifiable tradition of urban documentary photography that worked to contest the erasure of portions of the urban core of Los Angeles, in that they substantially helped develop a collective memory of urban communities that had been made to disappear." The photographs of William Reagh and the other photographers discussed in Dawson's lecture are critically important to understanding what happened to Los Angeles and particular groups of people as the city was redeveloped.

This talk is being held in conjunction with the newest exhibition at Honnold/Mudd Library: "Pressing Forward: The Book Club of California at 100," an exhibition of finely printed books published by the Book Club in celebration of its centennial. Book Club of California books show a special interest in Pacific Coast history, literature, and fine printing. In this exhibition are fine press limited editions of exceptional quality that are also considered notable works of scholarship.

Michael Dawson is a private dealer and appraiser specializing in rare books and fine art photography including historical photographs of California and the Southwest. Michael has written widely on photography and has owned and operated his own gallery as well as the celebrated Dawson's Book Shop in Los Angeles - a business established by his grandfather in 1905. He is a member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA), the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, (ILAB) and the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD). Michael is known as an expert in the history of Southern California photography. His writing on the subject is included in LA's Early Moderns: Art/Architecture/Photography published by Balcony Press in 2003 and Land of Sunshine: An Environmental History of Los Angeles published by the University of Pittsburgh Press in 2005. Michael has also contributed an essay for the newest publication from the Book Club of California titled William Reagh. A Long Walk Downtown: Photographs of Los Angeles & Southern California, 1936-1991.

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