I Wonder about Wundor

Wundor City Guide Los Angeles

240 pages
Binding: card + glossy dustjacket.
Photobook paper
Format: 210mm x 150mm
ISBN: 978-0-9956541-9-8

Wundor’s City Guide for Los Angeles has me somewhat flummoxed.
On the Wundor website it says… “Our guides offer up authentic insights and views on each city. Beautiful images take you through the backstreets and capture inspiring details and moments that reveal a sense of time and place”.
…however, I’m not sure the photos in this city guide could be deemed “beautiful” or “inspiring”.
I presume this city guide is trying to be gritty and “real”; to show us the underbelly of LA—but it appears to have strayed too far off the track, because photos of sidewalks, telegraph poles, and dirty windshield reflections do not maketh Los Angeles.
I wonder, is this guide meant to entice you to LA, or is it cautioning you to lower your expectations? Is it meant for traveling tourists, or local Angelinos? Is it a functional city guide, or a coffee table book? I couldn’t decide if I liked or disliked it, so I began showing Wundor City Guide Los Angeles to friends and random people in coffee shops to see what their thoughts might be. The guide-book impacted people differently, no matter their age, gender, or origin.
But before I share the feedback I received from others. let me just say that I, myself, feel this book is trying too hard to be über-cool and, having lived in Los Angeles for many years now, it’s verging on insulting to me. For example: my friend owns Bar Mateo, pictured on page 47, and if you walked a few steps further from where this photograph was taken, you’d see a beautiful outdoor Italian gravel garden. I have a feeling my friend would be somewhat mortified at Wundor’s limited depiction of his neck of the woods. On the other hand, having spent oodles of time with this book (whilst showing it about willy-nilly) I’ve become fond of it in a way. Like an ugly baby—I can’t help but feel protective and endeared towards it. Whatever the takeaway of this book may be, it’s certainly a talking piece and a conversation starter.

“Unique. I think it’s honest. I like about 50% of the photos, and it has great restaurant recommendations. It feels like one person’s experience of LA”- Samantha (29)

“I find it pretentious. It’s trying too hard to be different, and too hipster.” – Carrie (32)

“This is hilarious. Is it a joke book? I want this book!” – Christine (65)

“Artful. Has absurd vignettes. When people ask what I like about LA, absurdity is a part of why I like it, and this book captures that. Locals would enjoy this; I think it would appeal to them. As a tourist, I’d find it intriguing because it cuts through the usual stereotypes. This is LA stripped down” – Jessica (29)

“This is viable as a coffee table book for local Angelenos, I think they would find it interesting. But not sure if it works as a tourist guide” – Conrad (42)

“It’s badly organized—not reader friendly. It doesn’t draw me in. It’s too word heavy” – Jenna (31)

“Wants to be an art book, and there’s merit in it as an art book. The size and feel of it is great…this is quality paper. But the content is somewhat self-indulgent and random” – Adam (35)

“Different. Interesting. I like the odd flavor of it.” – Mary (61)

“Pictures are mundane and trying to be arty. Is this a coffee table book for pretentious Brits? I can’t see the point of this book” – Paul (53)

“The pictures aren’t giving me much information on the place, and it doesn’t make me want to go there. There’s too much to read. It’s too Avant-garde for tourists. And it almost feels rigid – like it’s withholding information” – Rachel (32)

“The pictures are abstract, but I like that they aren’t the usual LA sights – that makes me want to know more.” Jeff (24)