This is a xerox copy of a photo taken of me by “Coach Jeff” who ran a summer kids program at Topanga Elementary in Topanga Canyon, California in the 70’s. I dared him to take the photo. He made a hand-painted pink frame (I was wearing dirty pink leotard + tights) and painted the words “fuck you” in white. He gave this to my parents as a gift. I’ve had this photo on my wall at various points throughout my life—this xerox here is the only remaining copy. I’d like to thank Coach Jeff for encouraging a healthy dose of fuck-you-ness at an early age.

These are the first photographs I ever made. I used a copy stand to shoot photos of Mick Jagger that I had found in magazines. Then I processed the black and white film and printed them in the dark room. I think I was in 7th grade, so I must have been about 12 years old, and going to public school in Denver, Colorado. I remember so well the swishing of the film back and forth in the cannister, the washing and hanging to dry of the negatives, the smells of the developer and fixer, using the tongs to fish them out and the red light in the room. I was instantly hooked on that moment where the image starts to appear in the developer. I was also hooked on the power.

Notations for the Mick Photos.

A snapshot of my fridge today. I had the idea to make my first cameraless film in 2003 from three cans of old 16mm color negative that were in and out of my fridge for over 10 years, living in different cities and getting aged by the process.

Topanga Beach was a private beach back in the day—like Malibu Colony—with homes built in the 1920’s. It became a bohemian community full of hippies and surfers in the 60’s and 70’s, and became known as “Lower Topanga” because it mirrored what was happening culturally up in Topanga Canyon. Like the other “private beaches” around, you couldn’t really go there unless you knew someone. There are and were many other communities along the West Coast with homes built right on the beach even though no one is actually allowed to own the beach—its all public space. You just need a way through the gates and fences to the beach and anyone can be there.

In the late 70’s, LA County decided that it should do away with the community and set out to bulldoze all of their homes using the law of Imminent Domain to make way for Topanga State Park Beach—its a seriously crowded surf spot now. But at least it’s “for the people.”

As I kid I believed the rumor that the owners of the beach houses burnt them down as an act of defiance to the county before they could be bulldozed. Since I grew up in Topanga I was fascinated by that story—and for years had been telling everyone that the Topangans “burned down all their houses”.

I was researching the story for one of my films and found a trove of archival photos, snap shots, magazine pictures and movie stills that showed the bulldozing of the houses on the beach. But then, there it was, near the end of my search—I discovered a small bit of proof that the myth was at least partially true—a photo credited to J. Murf of a burning house captioned: “Locals set fire to the last house on the beach.” Several of the photos with the homes still standing were used as material for a film this year.

Photo c/o Carole Winter.

The Malibu Times. Photo by Gary Graham.

Locals set fire to the last house on the beach. Photo by J. Murf.

Photo by J. Murf.

Photo by J. Murf.

Grant Rohloff and friends in front of Dr. Schweiger’s circa 1966. Photo by John Clemens.

Photo c/o Claudia Taylor.

Inez on Katano, Feb 73. Photo by Woody Stuart.

Photo by John Clemens.

Photo by John Clemens.

Photo by Marlies Armand.

Miki Dora at Topanga Beach. Photo c/o Bob Feigel.

Jennifer West was born in Topanga Canyon, California. Recent exhibitions include Contemporary Art Museum, Houston (2010); PAINTBALLS AND PICKLE JUICE, Kunstverein Nuremberg, Germany (2010); POMEGRANATE JUICE & PEPPER SPRAY, Marc Foxx, Los Angeles (2009); LEMON JUICE AND LITHIUM, Transmission Gallery, Glasgow, Scotland (2008); ELECTRIC KOOL-AID AND THE MEZKAL WORM, Vilma Gold, London (2008); OCCAMY, Marc Foxx, Los Angeles (2007); The White Room, White Columns, New York (2007). Group shows include IN FULL BLOOM, Galleria Cortese, Milan, Italy (2010); KURT, Seattle Art Museum, Curated by Michael Darling (2010); CELLULOID. CAMERALESS FILM, Kunsthalle Schirn, Frankfurt, Germany, curated by Esther Schlicht (2010); SKATE THE SKY, part of LONG WEEKEND, Tate Modern, London curated by Stuart Comer (2009); NOW YOU SEE IT, Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, curated by Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson (2008); DRAWING ON FILM, Drawing Center, NY (2008) curated by Joao Ribas; HERE’S WHY PATTERNS Misako and Rosen (2008); IF EVERYBODY HAD AN OCEAN: BRIAN WILSON, AN ART EXHIBITION (touring) Tate St. Ives, Cornwall, England; ; CAPC Musee d’Art Contemporain, Bordeaux, France (2007-08) curated by Alex Farquharson; COME FORTH! EAT, DRINK, AND LOOK…, Gavin Brown at Passerby, New York (2008); WORDS FAIL ME, MOCAD, Contemporary Art Museum, Detroit, Michigan, curated by Matthew Higgs (2007).