Documenting Hollywood’s Runyon Canyon and all the characters it plays host to, Dan Wilton and Josh Jones release photo book, Canyon.
Sun-kissed shores and super-skinny blonde beach-babes – when it comes to LA on-screen portrayals often warp reality. We see that perfectly cut slice of LA life, but what’s off the beaten track is left unknown. Runyon Canyon is quite literally that, a hillside above the city where anyone and everyone can go up the dirt tracks and find solace, or a friend. Photographer Dan Wilson and writer Josh Jones decided to document the eclectic mix of personalities who congregate there. Canyon is a collection of portraits and stories from the characters they found at the top of the hill, we quizzed the pair on who they discovered.
What drew you to document Runyon Canyon and what do you think drew all of your subjects there?
Josh and I have been friends for years and have always wanted to work on a personal project together. I was in LA in January and Josh happened to be in town so we got a place in West Hollywood to hang out for a few days. I went for a walk up Runyon one day just to check it out and was struck by the mix of people. For quite a segregated city like LA the range of people interacting, especially at the peak where everyone takes in the view was really striking. That really started it off…
Who was the most interesting person to photograph?
I wouldn’t know where to start! I loved shooting Miles (the intense blond guy with long blonde hair). I was busy shooting someone else but as Miles ran past he shoved his business card in my hand and shouted ‘Love your energy Bro!’ Then he dropped down and started doing pushups by some rocks…
He goes jogging, bare chested with a pack of business cards and networks in between reps….I love it. Pure LA.
Have you stayed in touch with any of your subjects?
For sure. We got contacts off everyone we met and I sent through previews once I get everything developed. Josh skyped up a few of them to do slightly deeper interviews and clarify some things and several of them invited us stay with them next time we’re in LA. So yeah – friends for life!
How do you decide whose story is worth telling?
There was a bit of a juggling act between using great stories and the right set of images – we had to lose some interviews because the the order of photos just didn’t quite work, which is a shame but we wanted the book to be the best it could be. Everyone had something totally unique to bring to the project. As an interviewer it was a great experience for me because I didn’t have a press release for these people and no background information. I couldn’t research them at all in this instance. My style is pretty chatty and open though and I think that managed to get great answers and stories out of the subjects.
Did it take you many attempts to find enough people willing to share?
It really didn’t – pretty much every single person we approached was into the project and happy to talk and have their picture taken. Americans are always very open in that regard; I can’t imagine we’d have got quite the same response on Hampstead Heath. They were all genuinely interested in the project and were glad to help.
Do you think there’s any link between all the personalities in the book?
One of the things that struck me was the fact that everyone we spoke to had a lot of motivation to create something out of themselves – whether they were making motivational body building videos or running a crocodile skin, urban, high fashion boutique simultaneously with a gym. America is the land of the self-made man but these people really did hustle all the time. Another thing we found was people had moved all over the country, basically starting brand new lives each time before ending up in LA – it seemed like no bother to them that they’d bounced vast distances on their own between school, college and jobs before finding themselves in Los Angeles.