Portfolio: Kalpesh Lathigra
Sunday 18 December 2011
This is Westminster. Not the one with Parliament and Big Ben – but rather a city in California that chimes with locals just as regularly. For Westminster, you see, is a focal point at Christmas, when streets upon streets of homes are encased in the most over-the-top decorations, putting on a show that draws visitors from miles around.
Situated a half-hour's drive south of Los Angeles in the enclave of Orange County, Westminster is also the home of Londoner Kalpesh Lathigra's uncle – which is how the photographer was drawn there last December. "I took a semi-work vacation there with my kids and my missus. I was working on a project about motels in Long Beach, which is 10 miles away. It was blazing sunshine, but it's Christmas, and I told my uncle that I wanted to show the kids some lights. He told me about these places, three blocks from where he lived. It's famous in the local area, so it's become a bit of a tradition: every year it has to be a bit bigger and a bit brighter.
"They don't have festive high-street lights like we do: you just drive off the highway into the suburbs. And you can walk for hours and not see anyone, as everyone drives. So this seems like their way of creating the sort of community feeling we have. It's pretty full-on. Can you imagine the electricity bills?"
It's not all a winter wonderland, mind. "I went out one night to take pictures for my motel project and my uncle came to find me. 'What are you doing?' he asked. 'You're mad. Someone might shoot you because they think you're going to break into their house.' And this from a guy who grew up in Streatham! If you walk around, people think you're mad."
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