Photographer captures L.A.'s spiritual side in small-church series

Photographer Kevin McCollister enjoys walking around Southern California, but not along the cobblestone walkways of Rodeo Drive, the white sandy beaches of the Pacific or the trendy Sunset Strip. He prefers exploring paths less traversed in the unpretentious, sometimes seedy neighborhoods of L.A.

It was on one of his early morning walkabouts that he began noticing a proliferation of one-room storefront churches in pockets near MacArthur Park. Since then McCollister has been photographing the often-overlooked micro-churches that dot the urban landscape — the faithful grit to the city's glam. He finished his "60 Churches, 60 Days" series on Twitter in April but has continued to snap more than 100 of the humble, transitory houses of worship that have popped up in places like a former shoe store.

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"I recently counted a minimum of eight churches along five blocks in these cool, collected little spaces in areas that were just getting by," said McCollister, noting some have come and gone in six months.

These inconspicuous churches of various denominations don't attract attention in the bright-lights, big-city way. Their facades are modest, often lacking formal design elements. With the exception of a few Caribbean-hued buildings in pink, green or blue, most are painted white with black hand-painted lettering.

"They're charming and timeless and look like they belong to another era," said McCollister, who seeks out parts of the city that challenge its glossier images. "This is my counterargument to stereotypical swimming pools, palm trees and sunlight. It has moved the needle of my preconceived notion of what L.A. is about."

McCollister sees a lot of his hometown of Cleveland here. "The blue-collar element, just-getting-by way of life," he said. "It's dirty and funky."

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