A Visual Journey Through California from the Desert to the Ocean


© Gregory Halpern 2016 courtesy MACK


© Gregory Halpern 2016 courtesy MACK

New York born photographer Gregory Halpern is no stranger to the West Coast. Like all places, California is a land of contradictions, though “to greater extremes” argues photographer Robert Adams discussing Halpern’s most recent series. Crossing California, a traveller encounters dramatic changes in scenery and social landscape in a relatively small geographical area; America’s most urban state, cultures coexist in its major municipalities and urban sprawl, juxtaposed against its arid, sometimes alpine wildernesses that are markedly clear of people. Halpern’s new photo book ZZYZX takes the viewer on a journey from east to west through the eyes of California’s people, animals and places, commencing in the desert east of Los Angeles and ending at the Pacific Ocean.

While their early description of California as ‘The Golden State’ poses obvious ironies, if captioned against Los Angeles’ spaghetti junctions and parking lots, the golden light from the venerated and accursed sun that shines on much of California is perhaps one way of unifying its diversity.

Under the scorching sun, a recurring motif in this work is water, or rather, the thirst for it. As Halpern’s images take us westward towards the Pacific ocean, viewers might be reminded of the colonial ambitions of America’s first settlers during the original expansion, and momentarily share with them that insatiable thirst for water. The artist holds a BA in History and Literature from Harvard University which might explain this historically inspired pilgrimage of sorts.

The faces and places portrayed in these images are real, yet through the photographer’s lens, imagination and culminating work ZZYZX they partake as characters of a work of fiction. Rather than ships that pass in the night, they assume the role of co-travellers as we are transported on our westward journey.

ZZYZX by Gregory Halpern published by MACK.


© Gregory Halpern 2016 courtesy MACK


© Gregory Halpern 2016 courtesy MACK


© Gregory Halpern 2016 courtesy MACK


© Gregory Halpern 2016 courtesy MACK


© Gregory Halpern 2016 courtesy MACK


© Gregory Halpern 2016 courtesy MACK


© Gregory Halpern 2016 courtesy MACK

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get some visual inspiration into your day!

5 Weekly Tips to Advance Your Photo Career

Expert advice from photo industry professionals every Friday + get our guide to mastering Instagram (for FREE)!

You have Successfully Subscribed!