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Unknown Photographer

Framed by the charred timbers of a burned-out building, a cleanup crew goes to work on structures destroyed in last week's rioting in Los Angeles, August 21, 1965
Vintage wire photograph on paper
6 1/2 x 9 1/4 in. (16.51 x 23.5 cm)

Creation Place: North America
Technique: Photography
Credit Line: Restricted gift of Michael Mattis and Judy Hochberg in honor of Myrlie Evers-Williams.
Accession Number: P2021.13.1128

The Big Question Now Is Why? Framed by the charred timbers of a burned-out building, a cleanup crew in the background goes to work on the structures destroyed in last week's rioting in Los Angeles. As the cleanup work gets into full swing, commissions, civic leaders and other interested individuals attempt to determine why it all happened.

The Watts Riots, sometimes referred to as the Watts Rebellion, took place in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles from August 11 to 16, 1965. On August 11, Marquette Frye, a black motorist on parole for robbery, was pulled over for reckless driving. A minor roadside argument broke out and then escalated into a fight with police. False rumors spread that the police had hurt a pregnant woman; six days of looting and arson followed. Los Angeles police needed the support of nearly 4,000 members of the California Army National Guard to quell the riots, which resulted in 34 deaths and over $40 million in property damage. The riots were blamed principally on police racism. It was the city's worst unrest until the Rodney King riots of 1992.

On recto: manuscript title, typewritten title and date.
On verso: date stamp and newspaper stamp.

Wire photographs were originally transmitted over phonelines, then later, by satellite. They were first used in the early 1920s. Associated Press became a leader with this. After pigment touch-ups, etc., the print is put into a drum (like a drum scanner). The image gets converted into audio tones that are transmitted. The tones are received and beamed onto photo-sensitive paper. Wire photographs are copies without originals---they are hybrid, transmitted objects. (Britt Salvesen, Curator and Department Head, Photography Department, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, March 30-31, 2022)

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  • Image Dimensions: 6 1/2 x 9 1/4 in. (16.51 x 23.5 cm) Measured by Hudson, Karen
  • Sheet Dimensions: 6 7/8 x 9 15/16 in. (17.46 x 25.24 cm) Measured by Hudson, Karen

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