An anonymous street photographer spent six months visiting hundreds of different areas in Los Angeles documenting raw and poignant images.
Warning: This article has photos that contain mild nudity and depictions of self-harm.
Suitcase Joe’s photos are an empathetic look at displacement and mental illness; Joe previously spent ten years documenting the inhabitants of the notorious Skid Row area of downtown Los Angeles.
For his new project, Grey Flowers, Joe departed from his work on Skid Row and traipsed around the wider L.A. area to meet punks, the unhoused, the abandoned, and what Joe calls “beautiful strangers.”
“I thought I had a good idea of how diverse Los Angeles is but after moving around so much from neighborhood to neighborhood on a daily basis it gave me a whole new perspective,” he tells PetaPixel.
“This city is a never-ending world of different people and places. I could shoot a hundred books around L.A. and they could all be different. There were so many neighborhoods and communities I wanted to dive deeper into while shooting the book. I’m now currently doing just that.”
Grey Flowers is a hardbound coffee table book containing 300 photos all in black and white because Joe feels that the medium has more impact than color photography.
“They capture more of the raw truth of people and their environments. They have a timeless feel that always leaves me longing and wanting to know more. I chase those feelings in my photos,” he explains.
Joe says he visited a different neighborhood every day while shooting for Grey Flowers and it was never the same.
“One morning I could be by the railroad tracks shooting near DTLA, by lunch I’d be in Venice, and later that evening I’d take a bus several miles up Sunset Boulevard and walk back home,” he says.
“It was all a great medicine for the soul and it gave me a whole new love for this city.”
Joe says his experience was different from when he shot Sidewalk Champions — a project all about Skid Row — and he didn’t shoot as many transient people
“There was a girl named Trash who in the book is the girl with hundreds of scars on her arms from cutting,” Joe says.
“She was really fascinating to me and I kept going back to see her. I heard recently she passed away but I can’t confirm it; though, I haven’t been able to find her since.”
Joe says that he continued to keep in touch with many of the subjects in his book and is keen to keep documenting in the same vein.
“After I had enough photos for a new book I felt there was still so much to explore,” he says.
“So many captivating stories and lives of varied people each drastically different from the other but equally fascinating.
“I’ve now partnered with another filmmaker and we’re making a docuseries based on some of the people and subcultures I discovered through Grey Flowers.”
Grey Flowers is published by Burn Barrel Press and can be purchased via the website.
Image credits: Photographs by Suitcase Joe.