Meet the Valley Photographer Dima Overtchenko Who Comes Out at Night
It’s all about the blue hour.
- Written byHadley Hall Meares
Photographer Dima Otvertchenko grabs his camera at almost the same time each day. “For about half an hour, there’s a push and pull between the daylight that starts to fade and the man-made light that starts to come on in buildings, called the blue hour,” Dima says. “This window is the sweet spot where you can capture the experience of a place you wouldn’t expect during the daytime, where there’s a contrast between cool daylight and warm artificial lighting.”
Dima’s Instagram account @bluehourvalley paints the Valley’s icons and obscurities alike with the pensive, moody blue wash of light that comes at twilight. The result is a catalogue of Valley architecture both quietly lovely and challenging of preconceptions of the region.
“Because it’s such a short window of the day, a lot of people could’ve lived in the Valley their whole lives and not seen those places during that window, even if they’ve been to those places a lot,” he shares.
Pink Motel, built in 1946, in Sun Valley. Opposite page: Studio City Hand Car Wash
The photographer came to work here in 2006 after graduating from Vassar College with a degree in film. While working at Pie Town Productions in Valley Village, as part of his job, he maintained an array of cameras, including SLRs, and began experimenting. Soon he was taking portraits of friends and then architectural structures. Now he works as an assistant to professional photographer Douglas Kirkland and does Blue Hour Valley in his spare time.
His side hustle began in 2018, when Dima was living in the heart of the NoHo Arts District and started going for walks around his neighborhood and taking photos. “Everything started looking more interesting right after sunset,” he said. “It was really pretty outside, and I happened to have my camera, so I started taking pictures.”
The photos were a hit. “I was kind of surprised by how many people responded to it,” he said. “The more I heard the feedback, the more I realized there’s a lot of Valley pride, with lots of history and interesting things going on here, from movie history and pop culture history to mom-and-pop shops. The Valley is overlooked. Everyone on Instagram shoots LA beaches, downtown, the highways and palms. I thought if I’m going to make a project, I want to spotlight something that isn’t being shown enough.”
Above: Dima’s shot of the 101 Freeway as it passes through Universal City heading toward downtown LA.
Most days, Dima heads out for a half-hour sunset walk, looking for his perfect Blue Hour Valley photo of the day. His choices are partially influenced by what he calls a “pop-culturally relevant childhood” soaking up films like The Terminator, Wayne’s World, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Back to the Future.
Originally from Russia, Dima says, “Even before I came to California or even America, I was watching these movies about California, and by proxy the Valley, and internalizing—without realizing I’d end up living here someday.”
He heads to a different location every day, from a post office in Toluca Lake to an overlook at Stoney Point in Chatsworth—which he calls a “mini Joshua Tree valley.”
Whether capturing the facades and signs of bagel shops or grocery stores, he tries to infuse his photos with the character of the people behind them. He has even begun to include the stories of the owners of businesses in his posts, like Milt and Edie’s Drycleaners & Tailoring Center in Burbank and Cupid’s Hot Dogs in Simi Valley.
“The people behind these shops are what Blue Hour Valley is all really about, but it’s ironic that my loneliest project has the biggest appeal,” he says. “I’m a very social person and fascinated by people, who are to me the most interesting thing to shoot. I love things that connect people, like rail lines, train stations and town squares.”
Sometimes a post intensely resonates with his audience. His post of a Fry’s Electronics about to shut down at midnight ended up being an inside scoop for people who shared the Instagram post with friends. “I became a little bit of a reporter,” Dima says.
For Dima, it is especially rewarding when followers leave comments, and his IG becomes something of a Valley forum. “People come in and share their stories—I love reading that stuff. But I’m just a guy with a camera.”