MAGICAL LOS ANGELES CITY GUIDE WITH NASTYA VALENTINE
For a whimsical tour of Los Angeles look no further than the quirky and poetic lens of photographer Nastya Valentine. Nastya shares hotspots where you can find artisanal cocktails, a secret art mall, or a recipe for a seriously epic date.
WHERE ARE YOUR FAVORITE SPOTS FOR L.A. NIGHTLIFE?
Night Mall, a secret art mall curated by a society of elite nail artisans and magicians, where you can get your nails done, get your chakras cleared, drink bottomless champagnes, do karaoke, and bounce in a party castle in a hidden location accessible only by RSVP on the mailing list. Chateau Marmont if you're feeling ~tres fabulous chic~, Drawing Room if you're feeling ~tres trashy chic~. Also, I love GYM Sportsbar in WeHo, and El Chavo, El Cid, El Prado, El Coyote, and El Compadre, most of which are on the east side of LA. If you're lucky enough to get into Magic Castle, it may truly be the most enchanting night of your life (although I've had many an enchanting night at home watching movies...like Los Angeles Plays Itself, which feels like you're out and about in the city of angels!!!!)
WHERE ARE YOUR FAVORITE HANGOUTS IN THE DAY?
Nowhere; I sleep in a closet because I am a vampire. Kidding! My favorite day hangouts are Echo Park Lake when my New York friends are in town, or when I'm filming a pants commercial. Insomnia Cafe in Mid-City has become a go-to place for meetings and getting editing work done. Bourgeois Pig in Hollywood is excellent because it feels like it's night there all day long, but parking is a hassle (classic LA!!!!!) If I had a Bill Gates wallet, I'd spend stacks on spending my days at fabulous spas like Raya in West Hollywood, or sipping artisinal cocktails poolside at the Ace Hotel rooftop in downtown LA or the Standard (which has locations in WeHo and DTLA
WHERE ARE YOUR FAVORITE PLACES TO GO ON A DATE?
A perfect date with me would start with the two of us at the beach, unearthing a box of treasure from beneath the cold sand that I had planted earlier to set a romantic vibe. Within the box of treasure could be one of three things (but I forget which, because I go on so many dates and plant so many boxes of treasure): a bottle of champagne from Ralph's (first in California), meaning we go east (if you have cash, we'll go to Tiki Ti, a fabulous hole in the wall in Silverlake, if you've got more of a plastic vibe, you have the honor of taking me shopping at the Little Tokyo Mall, from where we can finagle our way into a concert at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion dressed in all sequin) ; a single rose with all its petals fallen away looking like a rejected Harry Potter wand, meaning we go north (the NoHo arts district is poppin', and we can get some Salsa & Beer in the valley until we're sick of it and go back to Regular Hollywood and do something classy like dancing at Davey Wayne's or martinis at Frank & Musso's); or nothing at all, which means, obviously, it's time to explore the pure decadence of nothingness by going to one of those sensory deprivation tanks by the beach in Santa Monica, because seriously, what's sexier than sharing the intimate experience of not having any perception for 30 minutes and living to tell the tale? Of course, we don't want the night to be over too soon, so to wind down with a nightcap we'll take a lyft or a clown car to the classiest place in all of Hollywood, Jumbo's Clown Room.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE MUSEUMS, MUSIC, OR THEATER VENUES?
Most recently, I went to the Broad Museum in DTLA and LACMA in Mid-City. They have awesome contemporary pieces, and people take pictures there all the time: perfect for selfies! Become the art! The Frank Gehry-designed Disney Hall downtown is spectacular for both listening to music (inside) or taking photos (outside). Its neighbor, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, is also worth going to when the ballet is in town. One place I've been told to go to, but can't work up the courage because I hear it's so scary, is the Museum of Jurassic Technology. The world is trippy and scary enough! Most of my friends and colleagues live in neighborhoods east of La Brea, so I'll spend time at their houses (which are basically museums, since I associate with aesthetically genius people) or places like Pehrspace, Human Resources, and the Echo. East of Western, there's like a galaxy of fabulous DIY artist run spaces and small galleries. Last year, Chateau Shatto had one of my favorite exhibits, Parker Ito's "A Little Taste of Cheeto In The Night".
HOW LONG HAVE YOU LIVED IN LOS ANGELES?
I was born in Moscow and moved to LA when I was two. Not counting the four years I lived in New York for school, I've been a sun-kissed, yoga-juicing, selfie-taking LA girl for 20~ish years. LA is my home and I would consider myselfie a native.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE EATS IN L.A.?
Sushi is my favorite food in the world, so anything with sushi makes me happy. Whenever visiting friends come to LA, I tell them they would greatly enjoy their dining experience if they were sitting at the Eveleigh. The WeHo contemporary European-American-Australian restaurant has the sexiest artisan cocktails, the best view, and whatever modeling agency they hire their hosts and servers from needs to give me their number asap.
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE PLACES TO GO SHOPPING?
WHERE DO YOU LIKE TO EXERCISE?
At the beach at night, where no one can see me. I bring my Canon 7D to shoot some night beach workout tapes--look out for those in 2017!
WHAT ARE THE BEST PLACES IN YOUR CITY TO TAKE PHOTOS OUTSIDE?
The beach or hiking trail in heels, full makeup, and ostentatious wardrobe by day, and the Elliott Smith wall after a few drinks at night. After a certain time, though, anywhere and everywhere. Once the terribly harsh lighting of high noon subsides, everyone and everything look fabulous.
WHAT ARE THE BEST PLACES IN YOUR CITY TO TAKE PHOTOS INSIDE?
Art galleries. Inside cars. People's houses.
WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE LOCAL SPOT TO BUY PHOTOGRAPHY GEAR?
Samy's Camera is the obvious choice, but I prefer the local Coffee Bean so I can sit on Amazon and eBay for hours and scope discounts. Samy's used to scare me in high school because I knew nothing about camera gear and the shopboys immediately knew and could smell my fear, but once I realized I could flirt my way out of social anxiety or shame of not knowing the difference between a 1/4 and 1/8 50mm lens, Samy's became a much easier place to go into (even if I still lack the knowledge of camera tech specs). Fun, cheap vintage cameras can be found at flea markets (Fairfax + Melrose on Sundays is so good for hunting archaic masterpieces) but may not the best option for digital photographers as many of those items run on film. 2016!!!!!!!!!
WHERE IS YOUR FAVORITE PLACE TO NETWORK WITH PEOPLE IN YOUR INDUSTRY?
Networking isn't really my vibe, I'm more into ~connecting~. If I have to, I'll schmooze at art gallery events or film premieres at Harmony Gold or DGA or something, but I prefer to leave a business card in the back of an uber. My industry is more of a DIY field anyway, and my approach to meeting new people is to keep it as chill as possible. A lot of my work gets done over email.
WHAT ARE THE MUST-SEE PARTS OF YOUR CITY?
One of my favorite things about LA is its vast, constantly changing character. Every time I come back here from a trip, I feel like it gets bigger and there are more new places to see. The beach is a classic; you have to go to the beach. The trick to the best beach day ever is not going to Santa Monica--go up to Malibu or Topanga for a chiller vibe. Go to the Elliott Smith wall. Go to Greystone Manor. Go to Little Tokyo. Go to Trader Joe's, buy a bottle of champagne, and go with friends on a hike to the Observatory at night. Ditch the touristy stuff (unless you have the money to go to Disneyland!) and just hangout with whoever you're visiting, they probably have a fascinating life even if they're a hermit. In LA, even staying at home and watching Netflix is a revelatory experience. LA!!!!!!
WHERE DO YOU GO TO GET INSPIRED?
ANY OTHER HIGHLIGHTS YOU WANT TO MENTION?
Los Angeles is one of the most inspiring and cinematic places in the world. It's impossible to define Los Angeles in an artistic medium, but my favorite LA movie is "Escape From LA" by John Carpenter and my favorite song about LA is "LA" by Elliott Smith. RIP
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS A PHOTOGRAPHER / CINEMATOGRAPHER / MUSICIAN / CREATIVE DIRECTOR?
I came out of the womb holding a camera in one hand, a pedalboard in the other, but for some reason no one really expected me to do anything in ~the arts~ because it's ~not a real job~. I entered college with the pursuit of an education in journalism (because that's a real job), psychology, or experimental science, being really into Tim Leary and Hunter Thompson and Alfred Hoffmann and William Burroughs and Tom Wolfe and those midcentury radical geniuses. Art and music were always my passions but I was too afraid to follow them. By sophomore year in college, I had written a 400+ page document on my computer on experiments in the psychology of psychedelics, that was completely destroyed when my boyfriend at the time water damaged my computer beyond repair. Lesson learned: back up your sh*t. This was a blessing in disguise, though, possibly, because then I started taking more classes in the Film and Music Departments. When I realized I wanted to do that professionally, I did everything in my power to try to make a living as an artist. It's extremely difficult, and in my first year out of college I had an extensive crisis upon breaching the art world vs. film industry threshold. There are many niches for a visual artist to belong to. Honestly, I never felt professional enough for the industry, and I'm too experienced for the beginner's luck of a DIY artist, so I started my own company/art brand to offer my services to friends and clients while also carving out a space for my own work. I love talking about my background, it doesn't make me anxious in the least.
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR LATEST PROJECTS?
My latest project was the most fun! I just went on tour with LA pop group Belly Belt to SXSW and the enchanted American southwest, as documentarian and backup dancer. We're still processing the photos and videos from this trip! Next up is a Belly Belt music video. I'm also curating an art show later this year, and finishing up the script to the film sequel to my college senior thesis. Big plans because my life is an arty.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
WHAT'S YOUR SIGN?
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE FOOD?
Sushi, followed by a plate of sliced watermelon dipped in pink wine with crushed mint and sriracha.
WHAT TYPE OF MUSIC DO YOU LIKE?
John Cage's "4'33" rocks my world and instantly possesses me to shake that ass on the dance floor, but I do also love a good Mariah Carey remix.
FAVORITE STYLE OF PHOTOGRAPHY?
My favorite style of photography is selfies. iPhone selfies are good, artisinal 35mm medium-format with a touch of light leak selfies are even better, Sidekick circa 2006 selfies are ultimate.
WHAT CAMERA DO YOU USE?
I use a Canon 7D with either a 10-12mm wide angle lens or a 24mm pancake lens. In high school I shot with a Nikon FM10, which is kind of a basic film camera but produced killer multiple exposure shots. It was the genesis of the way I use overlay technique now in my ~artier~ work. My dream upgrade at the moment is the Black Magic.
3 PHOTOGRAPHERS WHO INSPIRE YOU?
I enjoy the work and ideas of Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, and Patrick Demarcheiler, but the photographers that most inspire me are my friends. MJ Katz takes extraordinarily moody, haunting portraits; Hobbes Ginsberg's work is vibrant and self-referential; Fran Dominguez shoots dreamy, ethereal-sexy compositions for Suicide Girls
TOP 3 FAVORITE TV SHOWS?
The Mighty Boosh, Charmed, Twin Peaks
3 FAVORITE MOVIES?
Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill", Ryan Trecartin's "A Family Finds Entertainment", Sofia Coppola's "Marie Antoinette"
WHERE IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACE YOU'VE EVER BEEN?
In our tiny brains we have galaxies. For pure, unstoppable gorgeousness, look within. I have had chakra-cleansing meditations that showed me the beauty and power of the universe we all have within us. For unstoppable corporeal beauty in the external world, the Bard College campus has a garden called Blithewood Manor which to me is what heaven on earth looks like. Google it!
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO TRAVEL NEXT?
Japan. I want Belly Belt to tour there, someone please make it happen!
WHAT WAS THE LAST THING THAT MADE YOU SMILE?
My cat is missing his two front teeth so he is always accidentally sticking his tongue out, and it's the most charming face in the world.
TELL US SOMETHING EVERYONE KNOWS ABOUT YOU?
If I was an emoji, I would be the ghost emoji.
TELL US SOMETHING NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT YOU?
Nobody is supposed to know this, but I'm actually 1/3 palm tree. This is the truth to why I really live in LA, I'm most comfortable amongst my people.
WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES?
Getting my nails done, going to the mall, photography haha, surfing the net. ;-)
"Stay chill". Classic LA mantra.
In an ideal world, I would donate a lot of money to artists I work with, who are immensely talented but damn near broke. Including myself. Also, anything that funds the protection of baby seals, shelter animals, and endangered species.
HOW CAN WE KEEP IN TOUCH WITH YOUR WEBSITE AND SOCIAL MEDIA PROFILES?
THANKS NASTYA, FOR TAKING US ON A TOUR OF YOUR FAVORITE PARTS OF LOS ANGELES.
PHOTO CREDITS: NASTYA VALENTINE