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Trompe l’oeuil photoboxes, LA

In our recent Los Angeles trip it turned out we made a lucky choice by choosing to base ourselves in the cool art district of Culver City because not only did we get to stay in the wonderful Culver Hotel (see post) around the corner from crazy architecture street the Hayden Tract (see post) but right outside our hotel were these fantastic trompe l'oeuil photo sculptures by artist Joshua Callagahan

Actually I didn't notice them straightaway as they are so much a part of the environment but when I did I was mesmerised - what a brilliant way to introduce art to the outdoors. Most public art is pretty dire in my view and often bears no relationship to the location but Joshua really came up with a cool idea here, simultaneously disguising ugly utility boxes and creating beautiful sculptural objects.

I had no clue who the photoboxes were made by so when I came to write this post I made a very unsuccessful search to find out who the artist was. Then I had a brainwave and contacted the wonderful David Hall from the Culver Hotel who had been so helpful to us during our stay. David knew exactly where to look and got all the information for me from the Public Art department of Culver City.

As can be seen in these images, the concept is very simple; Joshua took photographs of areas behind the variously sited utility boxes and then pasted them on top of the boxes themselves, creating weird double worlds from this often mundane urban landscape. Genius!

In my photos of the photos I've lined up the real and fake but, as when viewed in real life, the misalignment between the two brings a jolting friction - which is what makes the sculptures so intriguing and fascinating.

Los Angeles is so exotic to a European like me! I never expected that.

I love the slithers of imagery on the thin sides of the boxes

It's clever the way the artist hasn't just chosen the most photogenic views - the boxes with the least 'intrinsically interesting' imagery are the most weird.

Showing the setting of the boxes all around the Culver Hotel

A bizarre aspect of the photos is that although we feel we're looking at a scene in the here and now, actually we're looking at that view as seen in a specific moment in the past. Space time freakiness!

The only bus lay-by in LA with a handle!

When three boxes are together the visual confusion is even more intense.

A box is surely the most three-dimensional of objects but the surface treatment of these boxes has all but destroyed their actual three-dimensionality. It really is a clever and interesting concept which works on so many levels.

Must be pretty cramped inside that box - no wonder she's got her legs sticking out!

I wish I'd thought of this project - it must be have been extreme fun doing it.

And this is how boring these metal boxes would have been without Joshua's intervention!
Turns out he's done lots of commissions like this so check them out on his website in the Public Art section.
Please, please, please will someone in England commission him to do the same thing here to alleviate the dreariness and predictability of some of our city centres!

See my other posts on LA
Los Angeles
Culver Hotel
Hayden Tract


  1. These are amazing pieces of sculpture. When I am looking at the photos the boxes also give the appearance of having mirrors mounted on the sides. There is a flipping back and forth between the image as a copy of its background or that of a reflection. I would love to see if this were the case when looking at them.

    The powers that be in Victoria have covered the utility and mail drop off boxes with colour images. Some of the are antique photos, maps or photographs of areas close by. They have made the ugly boxes quite beautiful. Joshua Callagahan on the other hand has created sculptures.

  2. Brilliant photos and they are good Sculptures!

  3. Nice Post…Thank you for sharing this information….

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