There's Maggie, Whiney, Slick and Selby, RJ, Quigley and a Jack Russell named "Girl." You may know one of these cats and dogs. I once knew Marcia. If you live in Echo Park you certainly know the flyers pleading for the animals' return and, conversely, the cooler but still caring announcements that an animal has been found.
The animal flyers are a marked feature of our landscape, posted so numerously both because this is animal-lover territory and because Elysian Park seems to be a dumping ground for unwanted pets.
I have been reading or avoiding these flyers for years on my dog walks along Park Drive, Echo Park Avenue and in Elysian Park and other parts of the neighborhood--they are both haunting and routine.
Which may be why I find Angela Wood's small format, self-published collection of photographs, Lost Pets, so affecting and beautiful. In Lost Pets, Wood (who is a neighbor and friend of mine) condenses one of the shared human experiences of living in Echo Park: the regular sight of these flyers, the aging of the flyers and the fearsome outcome that suggests, the way we--as neighbors--don't take the posters down.
In 32 photographs taken with her iPhone 3Gs, Wood gives us an unexpected portrait of the neighborhood. Though she says one of the images is from Santa Monica, the backgrounds also provide a subtle but rich texture of Echo Park.
A film editor and photographer, Wood appears to have taken care to avoid having people in the backgrounds, which underscores how it is humans who are at the center of this raw narrative: in the way they describe their pets, in the layouts they choose, even the fonts and the choice of tape.
Asked about Lost Pets, Wood says, "I started taking pictures of lost pet posters in earnest about a year ago. I had an interest in them for about 10 years and took photos here and there. Sometimes even took the poster itself but then hung it back up after feeling guilty that it might interfere with the reason it was put up. I love folk art and outsider art, so the raw drawings, photos, and language always spoke to me. Plus I'm a huge animal lover, and it gave me a bitter sweet feeling to know the names of the pets. You see a picture of a cute dog and find out it's named 'Marcia.' It says so much about the animal and the person who hung the poster."
Wood Continues, "When I saw the photos together it hit me how much it said about Echo Park," Wood says. "The backgrounds became as interesting to me as the posters. There's actually one that I left in that was taken in Santa Monica because it really shows the contrast--there is so much going on visually in this neighborhood."
Is it wrong to have a favorite? I do find Whiney's guardian's plea particularly lovely. "Whiney. Please call me if you've seen Whiney. She's friendly, has extra toes, and her left ear has a little notch in it. She's 14 years old but still [unreadable] like a kitten. She's very vocal/talkative." Whiney's owner could have added, "She is well-loved and well-observed." There is a sliver of golden light in the background. This photo appears to have been taken in the afternoon.
As for the "found" animals, the copy editor in me can't help smiling at the poster for the "found lost dog." That says it all.
And upload your own images of Lost and Found posters to add to the collection.