Riverrun, Photography by Ray Carofano

Sheridan V.Merritt, Professor Emeritus University of La Verne

I must admit, when I began viewing Ray Carofano’s images of the Los Angeles Flood Channel I did not expect—

did not intend—to find beauty, tenderness, resilience, or reason for optimism there. I was pleasantly surprised.

For example, in images #19, #62 and #64, using the concrete channel walls and floor as backdrop and reflective

sheets of water as mirrors, Carofano captures haunting kaleidoscopic images that lift the virtual conversation

above the mundane coarseness of rebar, concrete slabs, and engineering genius to the possibility of

transformation, even restoration.

There is an abundance of irony. For example, in L.A. River #6 we see in the foreground a five-gallon drinking-water

jug, representative of the millions of gallons of bottled water imported by the residents living above, resting on the

bottom of this concrete conduit, which whisks away millions of gallons of undrinkable water on even the driest of


L.A. River #60 shows us twin movie screens. On the left screen, the fading bird shadows recall the gradual

disappearance of the rich river ecosystem: consisting of tiny macroinvertebrates (insect larvae, snails, worms,

crustaceans) living in river-bottom microhabitats, rich riverbank soil, and resilient interdependent plant and

animal communities along shore.

Images #32, #35, #36 present soft earthen mounds (deposited sediment?) grown over by a thin film of algae—a 2-

dimensional wetland. A beautiful Ibis-like bird (L.A. River #36) is seen probing a small pool for morsels of food. It

is an enchanting, uplifting, or achingly sad image. How do we relate to it? Do we mourn loss or celebrate resilience?

Excerpts from riverrun show catalog at the Irene Carlson Gallery of Photography