With Beer Soda Lotto, Ben Hassett has gathered a photographic survey of Los Angeles’ liquor stores, which is as painterly as it is forensic. Part sunlit utopia, part cool analysis of a city on the edge, the series is a poetic and unparalleled portrait of the city.
Fundamentally embedded in a history of street photography – one that sees a nod to Garry Winogrand’s visual cacophony and Ed Ruscha’s calm distance – the compositions celebrate the beauty of LA; breath-taking light fills each image, punctuating every corner and facade. Hassett has a signature and singular ability to capture color so seductive it hardly feels real. This is his intent. The impossible runs through each composition; where people should be, there are empty streets filled only with buildings bathed in the brilliant desert light. As a result, this work is more about the act of looking, than the actual streets and buildings the viewer is looking at. Hassett’s compositions are about the edges, the color, the play between decay and beauty.
In the impossible stillness and study of each image, there is also urgency. To create the series Hassett methodically plotted each shot and then had to work with incredible speed when in situ. Anyone that knows Los Angeles will tell you that not all neighborhoods are particularly welcoming. Pausing to take in the city’s facade is not always possible. In Hassett’s images, we see things you simply couldn’t absorb in real life; details lost with a blink of an eye. In one image, a blue street sign pops out against a yellow sign for liquor. The signs merge into “cherry Liquor.” In another, a stack of boxes tumbles in a room above a bright green storefront. Hassett has gone to great lengths to make these images hyper-real, working with an architectural camera that allowed him to correct otherwise converging verticals, compose his photographs and deliver each scene in tremendous detail.
The series has an evocative, timeless melancholy. Hassett’s vision of LA is poetic – against the flat bleakness and empty streets. This is a portrait of a city but also a portrait that illustrates our failure to observe.
About the Author
British photographer Ben Hassett, (born London 1974), who lives and works in New York City, has established a reputation as one of the most important beauty photographers working today.
Experimenting with shadow, light, color, and form, he follows in the tradition of Irving Penn and Erwin Blumenfeld, as a commercial photographer who also creates Fine Art.
He is a regular contributor to Vogue magazines worldwide, and his work is held in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London.
His first monograph, COLOR, was published in the fall of 2019.