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Initially, anyone who reads the title of this new photo book and immediately thinks of David Lynch's movie of twenty years ago, which offered suspense in typical Lynch style, with an eerie nightmare atmosphere and perfect movie direction, will find few similarities between the two. While the curious imagery in Lynch's Mulholland Drive seems caught between dream and reality, Halverson's photography appears far more realistic. Yet, as the reader delves more deeply, the book delivers magical moments, captured during a road trip. Her panorama-format motifs alone are spectacularly dramatic, inviting the viewer on a visual journey of discovery.

In the nineties, when she could not possibly have seen the Lynch movie, the now eighty-year-old photographer uncovered new aspects of the road she frequently drove along. The visual trigger for her interest lay much further back – over thirty years earlier, in fact. Living in New York at the time, she had discovered David Hockney's Mulholland Drive: The Road to the Studio, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The colourful and fantastical painting left a long-lasting impression on her. A few years later, Halverson moved to Los Angeles, where she developed her own dynamic relationship with Mulholland Drive. She considered panorama photography the best means for reproducing the vastness of the landscape. Fortunately for the viewer, this means that the motifs in the photo book are spread over double pages.

Virtually no other road in Los Angeles enjoys the same kind of mythos: 52 miles in length, Mulholland Drive covers a panoramic route that runs from the Hollywood Hills, nearly all the way to the Pacific Ocean. It is named after William Mulholland, the engineer whose plans for an elaborate water supply for Los Angeles, at the beginning of the 20th century, ensured the rapid growth that turned the city into a metropolis. Built as a land development project, the road's many sweeping curves and lookout points still provide sensational views of L.A. and the surrounding mountains. Above all, the road is considered an architectural string of pearls, where Hollywood greats have their stunning villas and properties. This celebrity trail, however, represents only one stretch of the overall route; some parts of the road are neglected or overgrown by nature. The photographer has focussed on all of these stretches, emphasising the unique connection between the natural landscape and the man-made infrastructures that now define Los Angeles. “Let your mind wander a bit, though, and you might find yourself pondering the delicate balance that’s been struck in this metropolis of twelve million people, set in a semi-arid and earthquake-prone environment,” Halverson muses. “For me, that balance—some might call it a precarious balance—is a wonder of Los Angeles; perhaps the wonder that gives the city its edge. Mulholland is at the juncture where human will and ingenuity meet the forces of nature.”

This photo series, now published at last as a book, speaks of the magnificence of the landscape and of Hollywood's heritage. In 2024, the road will be a century old – yet, the myth remains ageless, and will grow further. This photo book offers the best opportunity to immerse yourself, and travel along this sensational route with all its different components. (Ulrich Rüter)

Karen Halverson: Mulholland
96 pages, 40 panorama, colour pictures
30.5 x 23 cm, English
Text by David Kipen
MW Editions
Mulholland near Pacific Coast Highway, 1992
Mulholland at Dry Creek Cold Canyon Road, 1993
Mulholland at Macapa Drive, 1991
Mulholland overlooking Universal City, 1991
Mulholland at Multiview Drive, 1991
Mulholland near Pacific Coast Highway, 1991
Mulholland near Kanan Road, 1993
Mulholland at Canyon Lake Drive, 1993
© Karen Halverson

Karen Halverson

Karen Halverson was born in Syracuse, New York, in 1941. She studied Philosophy and Anthropology, before deciding on a life dedicated to photography. She took lessons from Garry Winogrand and Joel Meyerowitz, among others, and discovered the expanses of the American landscape, as a main theme for her photographic work. In 1991, she moved to Los Angeles, where she spent 15 years; Mulholland Drive soon became a preferred subject that she returned to, time and again, over many years.

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