As the dusk light dims above the battered blue timber house where brothers Zeke and Max sit on a dusty stoop, there’s a line from Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road that resonates. “LA is the loneliest and most brutal of American cities” it says, which somehow feels infinitely true and completely wrong at the same time.
It’s true that the heat is dry here, the air stagnant, and voices appear to scream. Colours are muted, as if life itself has been sucked from them, as the sky fades into darkness. And yet, there’s a rawness, a wild freedom to this reality. The boys are able to enjoy being kids (like we were able to before being silenced by our devices), in the best sense of the word.
Their dad Thor, owns a hauling and junk removal company called Sons of Odin - named after the Nordic god of wisdom, poetry, death, divination, and magic - which means their home is filled with treasures that had previously been thrown out by others. In the attic upstairs, skulls lay around, there are insects in glass boxes, a punching bag, several TRX's hanging from the rafters and oversized pillows to jump onto from the loft above. While, Zeke's small room is also home to a rat, snake and tarantula, and lots of cockroaches to feed to them.
Dressed by stylist Leo Plass in earthy tones, denim and plaid, peppered with grunge accents - Dr Martens and mesh tops - there’s an all-American feel to this afternoon. Acid washed jeans mirror the sun-washed house and tie-dye tops blend with boulders, dirty carpets, exposed wood floors and graffitied fences. A snake slips it’s way around the boys’ necks, while a dog sleeps beside them. Everything seems to have stopped, and time itself stands completely still.
Pale faces, freckles and dark hair. 10-year-old Max wears his short and straight, whilst the head that is full, long and curly belongs to Zeke, 14. They bask in the dim hue of early evening, a shared look of longing is captured in their dark eyes. The brothers, first photographed by Amber McKee three years ago, are now sitting, swinging, squatting beside each other in silence. Boisterous disruptions of brotherly love oscillate with unpredictability, sometimes wiggling free as laughter. There's something in the air that draws Amber to return to the little boys in the little blue house. The brothers she never quite had growing up.