I love the Rose Bowl Flea Market. Anyone who knows me can tell you that. The whole place is filled with a liveliness that you can only understand if you visit. People come from all over the world to see the wonder that is this monthly event. Celebrities and the average person alike mingle amongst sellers of hidden treasures and items long forgotten to give nostalgia a new life and remind us that some memories aren’t always lost, just buried. Creators and designers are pushing the line of fashion and culture forward using vintage and history itself as a muse. It’s a monthly showcase put on by a community of people, who outside of these gates probably wouldn’t interact, but the magnetic energy of this place brings them all into one location. I can always walk away from the Rose Bowl feeling inspired. Conversations with friends, talking about their crazy come ups or sales. Admiring artists who put their unique works on display. Being in awe of the creativity people bring to their booths, making each one an extension of themselves, like peering into the coolest corners of their mind. And of course, the fashion at the Rose Bowl is unparalleled. Streetwear, true vintage, rocker, goth, normcore, pin-up, grunge, Y2K, the list goes on! All drawing from different eras and bringing them into the here and now. I firmly believe that the Rose Bowl is the birth (and sometimes death) of culture trends. You can find new pieces for your closet or see someone rocking garments in a way that makes you rethink how to style yourself. Virgil Abloh said it best “There are so many clothes that are cool that are in vintage shops and it’s just about wearing them. I think fashion is gonna go away from buying a boxfresh something; it’ll be like, hey I’m gonna go into my archive.”
My friend George always likes to call me the mayor of Rose Bowl, a name I don’t think is accurate, but fun to hear, nonetheless. He says it’s because it seems like I know everyone, but after going to the flea for the better part of a decade now, I feel it’s mostly because I like meeting new people. Getting to know them and their curations, seeing the new items every month, hearing their history of hunting and overall, just taking in their experiences to form friendships over a love of fashion, art, and culture. A few years ago, I started bringing a film camera (one that I purchased at the Bowl) and just began snapping pictures of my friends, to have as a memory. Nothing serious and completely lighthearted in nature. As time went on, I started shifting my focus from shopping to capturing moments behind the lens. I became intrigued by the idea of documenting this ever-changing organism that is the Rose Bowl.
With that in mind, I set out to document all of 2022’s Rose Bowls. I would use a roll of film (36 exposures) each month and by the end of the year I would put out a zine with the collection of pictures I had amassed. This project really pushed me out of my comfort zone. When I initially began, I stuck to the White Section - this is the vintage clothing section- taking pictures of my friends mostly, the fits that they wore and just making my usual rounds. As time went on, I thought that this was very shallow of me. “How can I truly showcase the entirety of Rose Bowl, if I’m relegating myself to only one section?” So, I started to explore. I ventured off to the Orange Section, which is majority antiques and was amazed by how much I was missing all these years. I started taking more pictures of things instead of people. I was flummoxed by the furniture oddities, confounded by the curiosities of trinkets, and awestruck by the abundance of individualism. I also began to look at the fashion of strangers, hoping they’d give me permission to capture their unique sense of style. With so many people coming through these gates I thought it a shame to not try and snap all the eclectic looks I saw.
The first couple of months I started strong, making it early, using a whole roll, and enjoying the process of writing about my experience that month. Then life outside the Bowl started to impose its taxes on my creativity. A Saturday night turned into a hungover morning, limiting my energy, and hampering my desire to interact with others. Short roll. I got lazy with taking the film because it wasn’t complete and didn’t want to waste unexposed film for only half the pictures. Excuses. Then the camera I used got water damaged, by my own incompetence, so I had to use another untested camera which left that month’s pictures blurry. Imperfect. It messed with my head because the pictures weren’t crisp. Another night out. Low energy. Short roll. Another broken camera, this time with the roll still in it. Losing all those pictures to the light in my room. Despair.
By this time, I was in my own head about having a shitty project that would never be truly complete. I was really saddened by this fact, and it affected my mental health more than anyone really knew. Half-assed rolls and missing certain months in the whole collection threw off my creativity. As an artist it’s tough to visualize a project and be so excited about it, only to watch it crumble before your eyes and a slow crumble it was. What made it worse was the fact that I really had no one to blame for this failure other than myself. The choices I made outside of the Bowl influenced my actions inside it. I continued to take pictures for the rest for the year, but I stopped writing the blogs and just let the film sit on my laptop. Moments that should've been shared were left in a digital archive. If no one is viewing these memories, did they ever happen?
After time and reflection, I learned that I didn’t need to complete a project to feel creative or fulfilled. As cliché as it sounds: it's about the journey, not the destination. I found myself exploring more, getting to know new people and learning about more than just vintage clothing. One promise I am making though, is putting out a blog each month in relation to each roll I use. I’ll still do my best to use all 36 exposures but won’t beat myself up for not being able to use them all. Life happens, but it shouldn’t deter me from being able to express myself in a creative way. I will do better though, at keeping my intentions and actions aligned. That means being mindful about my nights out before the Bowl, taking better care of my cameras, and overall putting focus on what this project means to me. Taking these pictures helped me see beyond the bubble I put myself in and what I found outside of it was so much more than I could’ve imagined. Maybe one day I’ll make that coffee table book, but for now I’m content with just capturing the beauty and uniqueness I find each time I visit the Bowl.
So, for the time being, enjoy the months from 2022 I never posted <3