Take exit 16A on the 10 freeway and you’ll find one of the strangest places in Los Angeles. Five square miles of prime real estate, nestled in the heart of the most densely populated city in America — with no tourists, no stores, and virtually no houses.
This is the city of Vernon, home to a sputtering constellation of factories, bottling plants, and meat processing facilities. 55,000 workers shuttle in and out every day, but only 112 people live here. It’s the first step in the assembly line for many of the city’s billion-dollar industries — and as the headlines will tell you, a wellspring for corruption and greed.
Nighttime in Vernon is eerie and unnervingly beautiful: the city transforms into a deserted industrial playground, lit up by glaring halogen streetlights and awash in a nauseating array of smells: cane sugar, coffee beans, diesel, decaying meat. Its gates are bolted shut and triple-padlocked. Its machines clang and drone and emit strange colors of steam.
For the last year I’ve been photographing Vernon as it makes this transformation.