Canyon People

The result of an enchanting alchemy between the beach and the mountains, Santa Monica Canyon has a rustic beauty that draws a breed of its own. Canyon resident and gallery owner Frank Langen set out to document the community in photographs. The images serve as both celebration and an informal taxonomy of those who chose the canyon as their home. Langen, who grew up in the canyon and in Europe, bought a home of his own on West Channel in 1994. A founding partner in the real estate brokerage firm Deasy/Penner & Partners, he says the impetus for this project came from the real estate business. ‘I’ve met so many amazing people and gotten really close to them,’ Langen says. ‘You really get to know who people are through a real estate transaction ’are they generous, are they nervous, are they mean-spirited, what’s their character? His own background as a photographer made the choice of that medium a natural one. He chose Ralph Starkweather to execute the project. Ralph grew up in Santa Monica, but has worked around the world as a photographer. The list includes about 300 people in all: singles, couples and families, old and young, renters and homeowners, together with restaurant owners, waiters, a valet, a bartender, a mailman and a homeless man who has been a local fixture (and a productive one, constantly sweeping the sidewalks of West Channel clean) since the mid-1980s, according to Langen. It was a big project, with Ralph photographing groups of as many as 14 people at once, and wrangling plenty of children and dogs for the shots.