Want to see the future? Dive in to The Brand New L.A. Week at LAmag.com! Inspired by “L.A. on the Verge”—a far-reaching guide to the big boom transforming the Los Angeles that appears in our June issue—we’ve prepared five days’ worth of stories about the city’s exciting next chapter. How will L.A. look, work, and even taste in 2020 and beyond? Read on to find out.
Scott Reyes enjoys a perspective of L.A. that’s unique. The native Angeleno and outlaw Instagrammer (he goes by @4thandSpring has been sneaking onto the roofs of private high-rises to photograph the city’s skyline on his iPhone since early last year. Taken together, the adrenaline-inducing results, which Reyes shares with thousands of followers on social media, provide a visual map of the city. In addition to capturing how bright the Port of Los Angeles appears at night from the Vincent Thomas Bridge, say, and how beautifully the faded tones of Broadway’s age-worn buildings look against 5th Avenue’s glassy towers, Reyes’ work documents a city in transition. We asked him to share photographs of construction sites he’s seen from above—and to talk about what it’s like to watch Los Angeles enter a new era from 32 stories up. “I hope it encourages people to explore different areas of their neighborhoods,” he said, and “to celebrate this moment in time.”
What made you decide to start photographing L.A. from the tops of buildings?
I really wish I had the words. It’s fun. It’s relaxing. It’s very therapeutic. Some people do yoga. I just like to have a nice view where I can sit and think for a while and collect myself.
Being on rooftops, sitting on ledges—what you do seems really dangerous. Do you ever get scared?
Yeah. I’m risking my life and my freedom, but I’m more scared of hurting myself than I am of getting caught. My biggest concerns are actually security concerns—for the city. My fear is that the wrong person can get to these locations and do harm. It really worries me.
What sort of precautions do you take for your own safety?
[I consider the] weather and the type of clothes that I’m wearing. I need shoes that can grip well so I don’t slip. Also, I listen to just how comfortable I am feeling. Some days I feel terrified and I don’t want to do it. Other days I feel invincible. It kind of just depends on my mood.
You live downtown, where there’s a ton of development happening right now. What changes do you see around the neighborhood?
Rents are going up. A lot of small businesses that have been around forever are closing. I just got news that Bar 107 is closing. It’s a bar that I frequent, so I’m pretty upset about that. But change is constant. Downtown’s a different place now than it was five years ago. When I was a kid it wasn’t a place that you wanted to be at all. My parents wouldn’t even let me go outside and play, so I was isolated a lot of the time.
Did you grow up downtown?
I was born in Long Beach but I was raised in South Central, Downtown, Echo Park, Silver Lake. I remember not being able to go to Echo Park Lake. I definitely couldn’t go to McArthur Park. It sucked being indoors all the time and not being able to hang out with my friends.
Are the changes mostly physical, like new buildings going up and old businesses closing, or do they go deeper, too?
The culture is definitely changing. Most of the people that I know who have been living downtown for a long time are either in the Historic Core or the Art’s District, and gentrification is happening; you can feel it. I have mixed opinions. I’m happy that the neighborhood is being cleaned up and that there are more things to do now, that it’s becoming more family friendly and pedestrian friendly. I like that because I never had that growing up. But with these changes, I also know that downtown will become a pricier place to live. The fear is that I’m going to be pushed out and I don’t want that to happen because I like it there.
You’re not alone in that fear. There must be a lot to photograph, at least.
Totally. I see the new buildings that are going to bring more people new jobs going up and I’m excited about that. I’m looking at the Wilshire Grand and Figueroa Central that’s going to be opened across from the Staples Center. That one’s going to be really badass. I’m looking at all the tunnels that are being opened up on Wilshire. There are positives and negatives with this change, but in terms of photography and exploring, I’m really excited.
How do you pick which places to check out?
There’s no real process. I’m just really curious. I’ll look at something and then go check it out and try to get in. If I get in, I’ll see if I get any good pictures. If I do, I do. If I don’t, at least I got my cardio in.
What do you wish L.A. had that it doesn’t?
More railways to more places that are inaccessible.
Where do you want to go?
The beach! I want to go to the beach so bad. I have days when I’m stuck at home and it would be so nice if I could go for a swim, or even learn how to surf. I could take the bus but it’s such a drag. But [the metro] is in the works! The rails are being built.
Do you have any plans to turn your photographs into a before and after series?
I think it’s just going to happen naturally. My goal is to share what it is like now with people in the future. Most of my inspiration comes from looking at pictures from way back in the day. It’s the only thing I really want: to take these pictures and a cute selfie here and there to show people this is a very exciting time to be around.