When you think of Rodeo Drive, you probably imagine celebrities rushing from one boutique to the next, paparazzi in tow. But I’ve visited over forty times and the only celebrities I ever saw were Jeff Goldblum, Wanda Sykes, and some sunglasses-wearing pitbull with 60k more Instagram followers than me. That’s because Rodeo Drive is actually a tourist trap, its three short blocks choked with visitors who come to see but rarely to buy. So what’s the point of a street where most of the things for sale are unaffordable to most of the people who go there? Desire and the transmission of that which is desirable. Because the culture of global capitalism teaches us that the most desirable thing in life is the right to conspicuous consumption enjoyed by the rich and famous and to be rich and famous culminates in the ability to consume conspicuously at Rodeo Drive. That is the street’s symbolic power.

The degree to which Rodeo Drive is really just one enormous photo op exposes this fact. Everything - from the storefronts to the street signs to the fountain at Rodeo + Wilshire - is designed to be photographed or photographed in front of. That’s why images, more than clothing or cosmetics or any other physical purchase, are the things most visitors leave with. Whether shared with friends and family on Facebook or disseminated to thousands of followers on Instagram, these images transmit the splendor and desirability of the Rodeo Drive lifestyle.

This photo series looks at the demands Rodeo Drive places on its visitors in order to accomplish this transmission and the relative lack of transactional reciprocity. It reveals a place where there is very little fun to be had - illustrated by just how much children seem to hate it there - a physical space to escape via one’s phone once the obligatory image-making has been completed. It shows, at a very fundamental level, the ways in which a potent symbol of elitism draws its power from the masses it excludes.

Using Format