Ever wonder about the man who beautifully photographs our neighborhood’s homes for the Wilshire Park calendar? Here’s an interview by longtime Wilshire Park resident Stephen Rebello with longer-time Wilshire Park resident David Donley.
When did you first begin photographing Wilshire Park homes for the calendar?
I have done a total of four. 2007 was a trial run. After that, the idea was reborn and I’ve shot them for the last four years.
What do you find most challenging about photographing these homes?
Of course, I wanted to make the neighborhood reflect the positive, upscale place the original architects had designed and planned it to be. There were a few gems that had always been kept up but there were also revisions and modernizations to other homes. In the last 2 years, though, the difference has been very noticeable – many more houses are being reclaimed from the ravages of time with new paint, landscaping, more historically appropriate alterations, and more curb appeal.
Also, shooting with available light is the most time-consuming part. Time of day, shadows, trees, and reflections all come into play. Since the best light seems to be at dawn and dusk, I make it a point to get the owners permission before I take any photos. That way they know who is loitering outside their house pre-dawn! It’s actually been a great way to meet my neighbors.
How long have you lived in Wilshire Park and how have you seen the neighborhood change?
We bought our home in 1980. My wife Marci was pregnant with our first child. We had been living just a few blocks away on Lorraine in Windsor Village. When we looked at Wilshire Park, the house was one of the few we saw where the original wood shingles had not been stuccoed over and all the interior woodwork was still mostly intact. That was great. The neighborhood seemed like an undiscovered area and some of the street was slightly unkempt, no streetlights, very little landscaping and some of the lots were so overgrown over we didn't now know for a couple of years that there was actually a house in there. I think a lot of the families were simply aging out. Their kids were up and out and maybe there was some urban flight. That’s all changed. The biggest change over the past few years has been the influx of young families recognizing the opportunities and potential of the neighborhood. A new school and, of course, the Historic Preservation Overlay Zone, have given us a sense of citywide identity, a sense of self.
Has photographing the neighborhood made you look at it differently?
The interest and energy coming along with the new blood has been an incredibly reassuring force. A number of the new residents understand the value of older homes and a lot of them know and appreciate the history here – history that is still to be had here at a relatively reasonable prices. The new homeowners also know and appreciate Southern California and Los Angeles history. I can obviously attest to the tremendous increase in property value over the last 34 years. It’s all made me realize that the possibilities and potential we saw in the neighborhood 30 years ago are becoming realities.
Tell us something about your busy career.
I am an art director/production Designer in the film industry. Commercials are my main avenue however I have done a couple of films, some theatre, and a couple of TV shows.
One of the main reasons we decided to stay in this neighborhood was the proximity to the production companies, stages, set shops, and rental facilities that service the entertainment industry. Right now, I’m working on a show for the Esquire Network called "BrewDogs".
We travel to craft beer brewers throughout the U.S., who, then, along with the show's hosts, brew a beer using local ingredients in some crazy and unorthodox way.