Isaac Diggs, "Downtown (#2), Los Angeles", 2013, archival pigment print, 20x24 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Isaac Diggs, “Downtown (#2), Los Angeles”, 2013, archival pigment print, 20×24 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Isaac Diggs

The beating of Rodney King and the O.J./Nicole Brown Simpson tragedy shaped my conception of Los Angeles as a young man. These incidents were the most vivid real life manifestations of the city’s underbelly, the violence that is the B-side to its sunnier aspects. This duality intrigued me and inspired my initial trip to make photographs. The enclosed pictures are part of a larger, evolving and as yet untitled body of work made in L.A. over the last couple of years.
This work, however, is not about a specific act of violence, nor historical moment. It is about my encounter with the landscape of Los Angeles, and, specifically, its incredible sunlight; the tug-of-war between light and shadow gives powerful visual form to the drama inherent to this city’s urban landscape.

Much of this drama is created by the diffuse stress the built environment places upon nature and the individuals within it. Whether squeezed into a car interior or a thin rock border in front of a restaurant, the individual and nature respectively play subordinate marginal roles in a story written for vast networks of roads and architecture. A détente exists amongst the players but it could quickly erode at any moment. Although certainly not the direct cause of the acts of violence sometimes seen here – whether by man or nature – I cannot help but wonder if the preconditions for such occurrences aren’t perfectly set in the drama of this urban landscape?


Isaac Diggs (Newburgh, NY) is a photographer and educator. A native of Cleveland, OH, Diggs received his B.A. in English Literature at Columbia University and his M.F.A. in photography from the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts at Bard College. He has received support from the Asian Cultural Council, the Center for Photography at Woodstock, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the Puffin Foundation. His work, which is rooted in a committed exploration of the everyday, has been exhibited in the United States and Japan, and is a part of the collections of the New York Public Library and the Walker Art Center, among others. His collaborative project 125th Diggs has taught at the School of Visual Arts in NYC since 2000.

Isaac received CPW’s Fellowship in 2011 and was selected by Peter Barberie, Curator of Photographs at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. To view his fellowship portfolio, click here.