Photographer Andrew Soria Critiques L.A.’s Housing Crisis in ‘Beverly Row’ cover

Photographer Andrew Soria Critiques L.A.’s Housing Crisis in ‘Beverly Row’

Seven years ago, photographer Andrew Soria picked up his camera and planted his feet in California, trading his former home in Florida for a downtown loft in the City of Angels. A self-described fitness buff, Andrew now spends his year-round summers making friends with the surfers at Venice Beach and biking through the sprawling neighborhoods of a famously unwalkable city.

His camera, currently a medium format Hasselblad, often rides shotgun with Andrew on his city-wide cycling treks. “The level of detail is just way better than my normal composites,” says Andrew, explaining the aesthetic approach behind his latest series of pop-surrealist cityscapes, Beverly Row. “Everyone knows Beverly Hills,” he continues, invoking visions of swanky Rodeo Drive and spoiled fictional teenagers Brandon and Brenda Walsh. “Meanwhile, 10 miles away, you bike through Skid Row, and it looks like you're in a third-world country. It's just so crazy to me that I live in one of the richest cities in the world, and the homelessness issue is so bad, and the city doesn't do anything about it.”

‘Beverly Hills Sign’

Using Photoshop to layer images of Skid Row and Beverly Hills into overstuffed composite cityscapes, Andrew captures the “recognizable and iconic architectural elements” of each neighborhood: Skid Row shopping carts and sagging tents set up camp outside iconic luxury fashion storefronts like Gucci, Chanel, and Louis Vuitton. “This series is very personal,” says Andrew, who, living downtown during the pandemic, saw the city’s housing problem explode in 2020. “Things got really bad during the pandemic, and Skid Row just blew up all over the city. Hollywood got really bad on Sunset. There were homeless encampments up and down the sidewalks, but the city will just kind of push them out, and then they just move somewhere else. I guess there's a business in keeping people homeless because the city gets funding every year to deal with homelessness, but it doesn't really solve the problem. It's just kind of like a Band-Aid.”

For those unfamiliar with Skid Row, the 54-block neighborhood was established as an official “containment zone” in the ‘70s for immigrants and transient people. For many, the area is synonymous with poverty and crime. “Even the way it's designed, the street lighting, all of that stuff is literally set up for transient people,” says Andrew, who dug into the neighborhood’s history for Beverly Row. “It was never really developed to be an actual neighborhood; they just didn't want those people downtown.”

‘Made in L.A.’
‘Saint Laurent’

While Beverly Row tackles weightier subject matter than Andrew’s past work, the series cleverly builds on the foundations of his travel-based practice. “The story of a city is told through its culture and community,” he says, a statement that applies to his composite cityscapes of Miami, Oakland, New York, and, most recently, L.A. “Living downtown for the past couple of years has really been a big eyeopener,” says Andrew, whose previous photographic series, Welcome to the Neighborhood, captures the vibrancy and cultural complexities of L.A. neighborhoods like Culver City, Chinatown, and, of course, the Arts District. “Welcome to the Neighborhood was really about showcasing L.A. at its core,” he says. “Not just the stereotypes.”

While some may view business advertisements, billboards, and signage as capitalist eyesores, Andrew uses them as cultural landmarks in Welcome to the Neighborhood, creating distinct composites for both Beverly Hills and Skid Row. In Beverly Row, he complicates the equation by juxtaposing branded luxury with palpable—and preventable—suffering.

“I wish there was something that I could do more to be able to help,” he says. “I think right now my capability is kind of just to show that awareness of what's actually happened and what is happening literally 10 miles apart: one of the richest areas, where it's like you have all these designer brands, and then go into Skid Row and just see people in despair. It’s insane to me.”

‘Paul Smith’
‘Skid Row Estates’
‘Tom Ford’
‘Dolce & Gabbana’
‘Tory Burch’
‘Louis Vuitton’

Andrew Soria: Website | Instagram | Purchase Work

All photos published with permission of the artist(s).

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Morgan  Laurens 

Morgan Laurens (she/her/hers) is NOT REAL ART’s editor in chief. Morgan is an arts writer from the Midwest who enjoys saying “excuse me” when no actual pardon is needed. She specializes in grant writing and narrative-based storytelling for mission-driven artists and arts organizations. With a background in printmaking, pop culture, and classic literature, Morgan believes a girl’s best friend is the pile of books on her bedside table.