Concrete River

Mathew Scott

2016 - Ongoing

“Concrete River'' is an ongoing project (since 2016) exploring the dynamic relationship between Los Angeles and its most well-known waterway. The Los Angeles River extends over 50 miles, connecting an immense metropolitan area from the San Fernando Valley to Long Beach. Despite its engineering to prevent floods – it was a natural-flowing river before it was paved over after a devastating flood in 1938 – a thriving ecosystem has emerged replete with natural beauty and human activity that is surreal and unexpected.

I became interested in the L.A. River as a subject when I rented a studio in Elysian Valley, a small neighborhood in Northeast Los Angeles. In exploring my surroundings, I began to document the nearby river, the people I encountered and the interactions between the two. Daily walks along its banks became long drives across the county to observe up close what was otherwise obscured by buildings, fences and freeways.

Over five years, I have photographed and conversed with numerous people who use the river to recreate, retreat and survive. It is both a natural resource and a flashpoint for local interests. Municipalities are interested in development; activists are concerned with access; conservationists want to repair habitat; families desire open space; the houseless need a place to live. The photographs are intimate portraits of the river and the people who depend on it, as well as documentation of some of the most critical issues facing the region.

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  • Robert, Atwater 2021

  • River Flowers #1, Long Beach 2021

  • River Crossing, Glassell Park 2016

  • Ron, Compton 2021

  • Rope made of discarded clothing, Long Beach 2021

  • Geo and Starr, Bell Gardens 2020

  • Vernon, 2020

  • Angelina, Sepulveda Basin 2020

  • Burbank, 2022

  • Oscar and Stella, Atwater 2020

  • River Flowers #2, Frogtown 2021

  • Joey and Kelly, The Glendale Narrows 2021

  • Bed Under the Willow Trees, Burbank 2022

  • Dave, The Glendale Narrow, 2018

  • Frogtown, 2021