Have you ever been on a sofa safari? DnA’s Caroline Chamberlain joined L.A.-based assistant director and photographer Andrew Ward on a recent Saturday morning to hunt down our city’s abandoned sofas and mattresses. It’s part of a photo project he calls “Sofas of LA” (with the sister project Mattresses of LA).
For three hours Andrew Ward and I toured Highland Park and Silver Lake and found sofas of all shapes and sizes at varying degrees of deterioration. If ‘sofa detective’ were a profession, he’d be your guy. Every sofa had a narrative that came to him immediately as he examined his subject. Whether it was determining matter-of-factly what species of animal had partially chewed off an arm of a particular couch– or speculating that a particular piece of furniture was part of a relationship ultimatum, he perceived dramatic tales behind our abandoned furniture.
Of the chair above, he said he believed the latter tale was true. “It’s either me or the chair,” he imagined one loved one saying to another before dumping it on the sidewalk.
And while he enjoys this project as a creative outlet where he gets to express his point of view as a photographer, it also serves a practical purpose. He reports each sofa and mattress he finds to the city with the MyLA 311 app so they are promptly picked up.
Despite his excitement for spotting these most intimate of objects, he sees them as a reflection of disrespect for neighborhoods. “No one wants to wake up in the morning and find abandoned furniture or any kind of illegal dumping in front of their house. I don’t think I’m the only one who would harbor that resentment. But also I like to think of it in some small way my kind of community activism. I don’t just take a photograph and go about my business, I make it a point to photograph it and to use my smart phone to call it into the city.”
Taken as a whole, though, he sees these cast-off sofas as an indication of L.A.’s transient nature as a city. “It’s a city that has millions of people that are always on the move, myself included. When you rent and move from place to place, these things have sort of a lifespan now,” he said.
From an artistic standpoint, he believes that his collection of sofas makes the strongest statement, as opposed to any single sofa: “I never thought or assumed that a piece of furniture could have its own personality, but when you lie them all along each other they do.”
Track Andrew’s sofa spotting on Twitter with #SofasofLA
All images except the vertical one by Andrew Ward.