Photographer Captures the Eccentric People of California

California Dreamers
Nancy and Spencer Hunt.

A photographer traveled to California to meet some of the weird and wonderful people who call the Golden State home.

California, and Los Angeles in particular, is a huge magnet for people who want to realize their dreams and live out their fantasies. For her latest project, California Dreamers, Sally Davies met a vast array of West Coast dwellers including everyday folk and notable figures.

“I didn’t know that many people there, so I just got started with who I did have,” Davies tells PetaPixel. “Those people recommended their friends — people they thought would be good additions to the project.”

California Dreamers
Gary and Joan Gand who have been together since they were 17.
California dreamers
Gabbi in Palm Springs with her parrot Baxter.
California dreamers
John and Xiao and kids photographed at their home in Silverlake.
Linda Ramone
Linda Ramone, the subject of many songs by The Ramones.

“I also had people in New York that had been in my New Yorkers book call their California friends and insist they join the West Coast project. That started a chain reaction and the saying, ‘It takes a village’ was really true. I left each photo shoot with at least one or two new people to contact,” adds the photographer.

As Davies mentions, she shot a similar project in New York where she delved into the famous apartments on Manhattan Island and the people who live there.

California dreamers
Lynda Kahn photographed at home in L.A.
california dreamers
Stephen Henry who bought his house in Silver Lake in 1996.
California Dreamers
Kitten Kay Sera photographed at home in West Hollywood with her dog Pinkaboo.
California dreamers
Cybill in her dungeon-like home.

New Yorkers was released during Covid when people were locked inside their homes. But after the project was finished, Davies wanted to keep exploring this style of portraiture.

“I had been spending time in California the last few years and had a hunch that it might be my next book,” she says.

“You never know until you try something, but the response to California Dreamers has been off the hook. I guess the interest in each other’s stories and homes has outlived Covid.”

California dramers
Richard Haymes and Michael DeJong with their dog Atticus.
California dreamers
Kimberly Biehl Boaz and Greg Boaz.
California dreamers
Pamela Des Barres photographed at her home in Reseda, California.

Capturing the California Dreamers

Davies says that on her first trip, she photographed “about a dozen people” and came back to shoot the rest in the following two months.

“It was full pedal to the metal but with the help of my assistant Vin who had a car, we got it done,” she says.

“We would cover as much territory on those car days as humanly possible, sometimes photographing two or three people in one day.

“Each person was given a Q&A prior to our photo shoot, so I already had that done when we took their photo.”

Mat Gleason’s Mom and Dad photographed at home in Huntington Park.
California Dreamers
Sara Reyna photographed at her home, in Cathedral City.
California Dreamers
Denise Cook photographed at her home in Inglewood.

Davies says she learned from her first project in New York that bringing lights wasn’t necessarily a good idea.

“As I was setting them up I could feel the person getting uneasy and a bit nervous. It took too long and the energy changed” she explains.

“So after that, I just used an on-camera flash that I bounced off the ceiling. I just needed to make sure the people and their treasures were well-lit.”

California Dreamers
Jeff Guthrie at his house in Venice.
California Dreamers
Sheila Silber who says Malibu hasn’t changed in 21 years.
California Dreamers
Deke Dickerson in the Valley.

Davies uses a Sony a7R with an 18mm wide lens attached and her shoots were quick, taking no longer than 20 minutes and sometimes being done in five.

“I tried not to manipulate the moment. I just wanted to photograph the person quickly before either of us started overthinking the shot,” she adds.

California Dreamers is available from Ammonite Press. More of Davies’ work can be found on her website, Instagram, and Facebook.

Image credits: All photos by Sally Davies.