In 1966, Ed Ruscha drove along the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood, Los Angeles. Using a motorized camera mounted on the back of a pickup truck, he methodically photographed all of the buildings on each side of the street.
The Getty Research Institute (GRI) used those photos to create the jaw-dropping web exhibit 12 Sunsets: Exploring Ed Ruscha’s Archive, an interactive website that allows users to see what the road, the city and the people looked like over the course of more than 50 years.
“Ed Ruscha’s engagement with the Los Angeles cityscape is profound. Since the mid-1960s he has taken more than a half-million photographs of the streets of Los Angeles, which have been at Getty Research Institute since 2012,” said Mary Miller, director of Getty Research Institute. “We aim to activate this rich material and make it widely accessible and appealing to anyone interested in art or the recent history of this great city. The vast majority of these photographs have never been seen before, and making them accessible opens up new avenues for inquiry about one of the most significant artists of the postwar period, as well as a major part of Los Angeles history.”
The website, designed by Stamen Design working with Getty Digital, allows users to “drive” down Sunset Boulevard in 12 different years between 1965 and 2007, as well as to view, search, and compare the more than 65,000 photographs of this key urban artery. Entering this user-friendly website, visitors can navigate Sunset Boulevard in a particular year, browsing tens of thousands of geotagged photos, with images from both sides of the street. Users can search by address, explore how neighborhoods changed over the years, compare sites at different times, and search the images by words on signs or by subject – functions made possible by optical character recognition and computer vision.