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Stillness. Nelson Alley, Pasadena – April 2020.

In my neighborhood of northeast Pasadena, there are narrow alleys behind residential streets which easily go unnoticed by the casual observer. From a bygone era, they follow no predictable pattern as new subdivisions abandoned them decades ago. The few that remain continue to provide an alternate route for trash pickups, maintenance workers and access to carports away from pedestrians and automobiles along the main roads.

Last light. Dudley Alley, Pasadena – June 2020.

Unlike the gritty, graffiti-laden alleys we commonly imagine, these back alleyways seem oddly clean and orderly; trash bins and discarded items are neatly placed by the side of the road; signs of defacement have been removed or painted over. The gates and retaining walls are utilitarian, intended for security and privacy, but occasionally brightened by a splash of color paint or an ornamental vine. Many original facades remain untouched, some dating back nearly a century. It’s a place of close proximity and anonymity, of timelessness and a lingering sense of danger.

Interested in ordinary scenes of everyday life, I wanted to capture this strange and desolate environment – made more poignant by the isolation and loneliness of living in the pandemic. I wondered, too, what stories lay beyond the wall panes of these fortified structures, what traces of life could be detected in the shadows and in the light.

At rest. Dunham Alley, Pasadena – May 2020.
Like Cape Cod. Nelson Alley, Pasadena – April 2020.
Tipped over. Clifton Alley, Pasadena – June 2020.
Blue pickup. Dunham Alley, Pasadena – June 2020.
Gate. Nelson Alley, Pasadena – July 2020.
Car pad. Baldwin Alley, Pasadena – July 2020.
Locked up. Nelson Alley, Pasadena – May 2020.
Dark gables. Crawford Alley, Pasadena – June 2020.
Silent. Nelson Alley, Pasadena – July 2020.
Fortified. Clifton Alley, Pasadena – June 2020.
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James Kuo

James Kuo is a retired television production manager living in Los Angeles, California.


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