About the project

Imperial Courts, 1993-2015 is a project by photographer Dana Lixenberg about Imperial Courts, a social housing project in Watts, Los Angeles. The project contains work made over a period of 22 years and consists of a book, exhibition and web documentary.

Imperial Courts was built in 1944 on the corner of 116th Street and Imperial Highway in Watts, Los Angeles. Part of a major social housing development, it attracted predominantly African-American migrants from the southern states. Imperial Courts and the neighborhoods around it soon became a ghetto, beyond which African-Americans were not welcome. Frustration at the racial discrimination and social isolation boiled over into the notorious Watts riots of 1965. Widespread riots erupted again in 1992, following the acquittal of four white LAPD officers accused of the brutal beating of Rodney King. Over the years, Imperial Courts has gone from being the epicenter of race riots to an anonymous deprived neighborhood. The media attention has died down, but the lives of the residents go on.

The web documentary consists of three parts: Portraits and Stories, and contributions by Imperial Courts residents. ‘Portraits’ encompasses all the portraits Dana Lixenberg has made between 1993-2015. ‘Stories’ combines her photography with audio, video and short texts to tell short poetic stories about daily life in Imperial Courts. With the ongoing contributions by Imperial Courts residents, the project aims to build an online historiography of which the residents are both protagonists and co-authors.

Untitled II-2010

Dana talking about the genesis of the project 

About Dana Lixenberg & Eefje Blankevoort

Dana Lixenberg
studied Photography at the London College of Printing (1984-1986) and at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam (1987-1989). In 1993 she was awarded a project grant by The Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture for a series of portraits at the Imperial Courts Housing Project in Los Angeles. Since 2008 Lixenberg has been revisiting the Imperial Courts Housing Project in Los Angeles for a follow up to the series from 1993. In December 2015 Huis Marseille, Amsterdam will organize a large scale exhibition of Imperial Courts coinciding with the release of a publication.

Eefje Blankevoort (Montreal, 1978)
is co-founder of the journalism production company Prospektor. She writes articles and books and makes (multimedia) documentaries. In 2014 Love Radio premiered, an award winning transmedia documentary about the process of reconciliation following an armed conflict, based around the popular Rwandan radio soap Musekeweya. She is currently working on the feature-length documentary Bring the Jews home (IKON) and the interactive transmedia project ‘De Asielzoekmachine’ (The Asylum Machine). 


Photography and video Dana Lixenberg
Online concept & production Eefje Blankevoort (Prospektor)
Edit Eefje Blankevoort & Dana Lixenberg
Interaction design Sara Kolster
Technical realisation Studio Parkers
Visual design Studio Parkers
Audio interviews Laura Stek
Audio correction
 Björn Warning
Colour Correction Thomas Roebers
Press and communication Laura Verduijn

Many thanks to Imperial Courts’ residents for their generous support and contributions.
The Imperial Courts webdocumentary is a Stichting Traktor/Prospektor production


The Imperial Courts web documentary is supported by the AFK (Amsterdam Fund for the Arts), the Mondriaan Fund, Creative Industries Fund NL and Dutch Culture USA.