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Every City Has Its Mysteries

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It started, as many good things do, with the internet. In the early aughts (what all the cool kids are calling the ‘00s these days), a group of people assembled in an imaginary space to collect and trade cheesecake photos taken in the late nineteen forties to the early nineteen sixties. As the site describes it, this is not pornography; it is “young ladies in various modest states of undress.” (Though let’s not fool ourselves, my conservative grandparents, raising their children contemporaneously in New Jersey would have considered these girls fallen, and trashy. Still, in the tide of starlets who “accidentally” leak their amateur porn and nudie photographs and the press that both hounds and glorifies them, these pictures seem charming and innocent.)

Taken by amateur photographers, spurred to join clubs by the invention of the Stereo Realist Camera, some ended up in magazines, others in private collections. Betty Page did this kind of modeling (though she is not in any of the pictures that concern us.) These clubs liked to photograph outside, in interesting locations.

Our intrepid internet collectors found themselves intrigued by these places, many of which had distinctive features. One in particular captivated them. It was a pool, secured into a hillside with a view of the San Fernando Valley in the background. The pool was surrounded by strange loop de loops of white cement and extravagantly colored tiles, but its most distinctive feature was the mosaic that adorned a retaining wall above the pool. It depicted a large spider in its web, a tiny blip of a hornet caught off to the side. They began comparing photos, especially their backgrounds, to pick out the features that would help them to figure out where the photos were taken.