May 31 2009

freeway love

Published by at 9:47 pm under architecture,engineering,portraits,visual concepts

She had me at the first exit sign to Las Vegas. The moment I saw her Caltrans Curves it was love at first sight.

It was 1977, I had just moved out from Michigan to finish my last semester at Johnston College in Redlands, California. There were so many new sights. The snow capped mountains (before the smog rolled in) orange groves, palm trees and bast of all the sweeping freeway interchanges. My favorite was one still under construction in Ontario at the intersection of the I-15 and I-10. With some minor trespassing it was possible to walk on the middle roadway that was complete, but not yet open to traffic.

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Intersection of I-10 and I-15 in Ontario, California

It was the first time I experienced the sense of grandeur at a man-made object. It was similar to what I felt when seeing the great expense of rock at the Grand Canyon for the first time. This interchange felt alive though. There was a roar of the cars below and the vibration of the trucks traffic up above mixed in with the glorious sweep of the interchanges. It was a sight to behold.

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Intersection of the 110 and I-105

Years later when I returned to Los Angeles the love of those interchanges still remained and as the skill of the Caltrans engineers increased the sweeping curves became ever longer and more graceful.

With the construction of the new I-105 freeway there was the opportunity to revisit the theme. I found an area near the bus station…and down in the LA River that had great elliptical ramps.

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Freeway on-ramp sweeping over Los Angeles River

I recently had the opportunity to revisit the theme on an assignment to shoot Dr. David Brownstone, a UC Irvine economics professor that studies toll road use in Orange County. In my scouting I found a CalTrans maintenance yard that was perfectly situated in the crook of the 73 and 55. I asked and was granted permission to shoot there and the portrait can be seen below.

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Toll road researcher Dr. David Brownstone

Mark Harmel

harmelphoto.com

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