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Franklin Odel




Abandoned Couches

Abandoned Couches begin in 1983 while I was working at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and taking photography classes at Otis Art Institute. My job at DWP kept me driving around the city everyday in a pickup truck with my camera always stashed under the seat. I became aware of the large numbers of couches left out on the streets in the neighborhoods I drove through.

I became fascinated by the couches, first because of their patterns and colors, then further as I noticed their juxtaposition with their surroundings — the buildings, lots, walls, streets, and objects around or near.

I regard the abandoned couches as urban monuments... sculptural items on display as public spectacles. Since they did not just appear out of thin air, each couch must have a backstory. I began to wonder how they got there. Who drags a couch onto the street? Certainly not the wealthy of Brentwood, Bel Air, and Beverly Hills, so is it a working class phenomenon — families who have acquired a new or replacement couch, but don’t have the time, money, or energy to dispose of the couch? Were they just dragged out of a living-room and left in front of the former owner’s apartment, or was it a covert operation in the middle of the night abetted by a friend or brother-in-law?

Like a hungry man driving down the boulevard noticing every billboard advertising food, so have my senses become acutely attuned to couches left on the streets. My peripheral vision has become sensitized to the point that I can spot an abandoned couch two blocks in either direction as I pass through an intersection — a certain radar kicks in that allows me to identify the shape of a couch even in the dimmest light. The moment of discovery MUST be the moment the photograph is made — returning a day or an hour later is no guarantee the couch will still be there. Like the big game hunter on the savannas and veldts — the relentless hunter of abandoned couches finds his quarry and “brings ’em back alive ”.

fodel — ’02


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