It’s only seventeen minutes from Santa Monica to the Pacific Palisades but it feels wholly separate from Los Angeles, a hidden corner of the city flanked by mountains and greenery. It feels otherworldly—a place where your cell phone loses service and the cars thin out and it seems like there are only two roads, the one that brings you in and the one that will take you out again.
It’s been a strange week (do I say that a lot?) and feels stranger still driving along with the ocean to my left and my phone chirping out directions to Alana’s house. I don’t know what to expect. It feels like I never know what to expect. Will this be easy, will this be hard? Will this be a waste of time? Will this make sense? Will anything ever?
Alana and her mother live in a small, peaceful complex with brick driveways and orange trees growing flush against the houses. I get lost immediately and try to dial Alana’s number. No service. Later they’ll ask me what provider I have and laugh, like—that thing won’t work here. When I leave, Alana tells me the exact spot on the road where I’ll have service again. I pay attention, and she’s right.
A paper sign on their front door requests souls in, soles out, so I leave my shoes on the welcome mat as I step inside. It’s my first time in their home and I’m instantly struck by the light. Almost every corner of every room is lit up by a warm wash of sunlight that pours in through windows wrapped in the thinnest, gauziest curtains. The living room is filled with texture and deep colors. The dining room table sits low to the floor with scattered pillows for chairs. Alana finishes a kale salad. Gina sits on the couch with her laptop.
This isn’t the first time I’ve photographed Alana and the whole time I’m there it is effortless. We’re at ease with each other. She jokes that she’ll turn into me one day; I joke that I see so much of myself at her age. She’s nineteen and beautiful. She doesn’t even try, just turns her face to the camera and lets me capture her. Every shot is usable. Even the ones that aren’t great.
When I leave, the road that brought me in turns into the road that pushes me out. I keep my phone on my thigh. I keep the ocean on my right. I wonder, for the hundredth time that afternoon, what am I doing and what will it get me? But with no way to know the answer to that, I roll down the window. I do my best to let the questions blow away with the salted breeze.
photographs of Alana taken at her home in the Pacific Palisades.