From the upcoming postcard book “Downtown Los Angeles - A Look Back”

From the upcoming postcard book “Downtown Los Angeles - A Look Back”


Expand Your Visual Playground.

In creating this pictorial dialogue, we hope to expand our ability to understand how we are rooted in the continuity of time. To participate in time cycles that surpass the scope of an individual life unifies us. We can dance together in this celebration.

LookBack Art is a side-by-side comparison that juxtaposes the past and present in ways that puts today’s landscape in the greater historical play. No detail goes unturned. This is a labor of love. We hope you find these images to be an educational tool that may lift the spirit beyond the concerns of the present to a larger picture.

What was here and where things are headed is a community conversation. OUR GOAL is to re-frame history with the intent of inclusiveness, to help celebrate or highlight our social and spiritual cores as a community. We hope to share these ideals with as many communities that will have us.

LookBack Art is the collective work of Michael Murphy, photographer Jens Lucking and Hamilton von Watts.


Santa Monica: A Look Back to 1902 from Today

110 Photographs from the Same Place, Over 115 Years Apart.Over one hundred years ago, volunteer firemen sold a book titled, “Santa Monica Fire Department, Souvenir Book of Santa Monica, 1902” door to door. Legend has it that the newly-established fire department promised to fight fires for those who purchased the book, but made no such promise to those who didn’t. 

I first discovered the book years ago in the house I grew up in, which was also owned by Santa Monica Mayor Edmond S. Gillette in the 1930’s. The 1902 book contained 110 interior and exterior photographs of houses and businesses in what we know today as western Santa Monica and a few images from other locations around Los Angeles.  When I picked it up again, creating a comparison book seemed like a natural idea. 

I spent a few months researching and verifying the locations using 1902 and 1909 Sanborn Insurance Maps, Google Maps and the Santa Monica Digital Library. Once I had all of the addresses confirmed, photographer Jens Lucking and I biked or walked to every location, carefully matched the camera angles, and re-shot the historic photographs.  Traversing Santa Monica by foot and bike made me appreciate how the people of the day must have experienced the City. The slower pace of transportation (and life) in 1902 may have allowed them to enjoy the city’s character in a more personal way than most people do today–until now.   

“Santa Monica: A Look Back to 1902 from Today” is a side-by-side comparison that was more than a century in the making, a juxtaposition of the past and present as seen through lenses focused on one of California’s most vibrant, accessible and diverse beach cities.

-Michael Murphy


Santa Monica Pleasure Pier: A Look Back to 1917 from Today

This book is a study of Charles I. D. Looff’s ‘1917 Prospectus Book’ and his Santa Monica Pleasure Pier.  

A book of a book from the Stephen Raul Anaya Collection, a rare and mostly unseen look at the Santa Monica Pleasure Pier and its surroundings from 1917. Images were pulled from a rare ‘Prospectus Book’, created by its then owner, Mr. Looff (who built the first carousel) hoping to sell shares in his Santa Monica “Pleasure Pier.”

It is with great pleasure that we share and celebrate this book and exhibit with you as this 1917 Collection of images serves as a reminder of our own continuity, specifically as it relates to time and place.

-Michael Murphy