Local artist captures and celebrates fleeting ‘Moments’ in Los Angeles


56 year-old artist Linda Detweiler Burner discusses her photographs with arts major Raudel Nava, liberal arts major Lajoy Watson. Burner’s art exhibit, entitled “Moments,” is composed of photographs, mosaics and paintings. Omar Rashad/The Union

She peers through her window as she drives home from a long vacation in Morro Bay. Suddenly, she’s watching firefighters power through hot embers and flames. She whips out her camera.

56-year-old photographer Linda Detwiler Burner has been taking photos since she was eight years old. Her exhibit presented at the Schauerman Library, “Moments,” is a culmination of her art pieces including paintings, mosaics and photographs from the last few years; she aims to explore the passage of each moment and how quickly those moments go by.

“I liked [‘Moments’] because a photograph is capturing a memory, or what was happening at that moment. And once the moment is gone, it’s gone,” Burner said. “Life is full of moments, you’ve got to share those moments, and photography helps capture those moments.”

Of the entire exhibit, a dozen pictures were taken at Hot N Tot Diner in Lomita, California. Burner, who also works as a User Support Technician in El Camino College’s Financial Aid Department, wanted her lens to transcend physical barriers and let the subjects’ individual personalities shine through.

User Support Technician at ECC and artist Linda Detweiler Burner explains the meaning behind a picture of a Los Angeles sunset.
User Support Technician at ECC and artist Linda Detwiler Burner explains the meaning behind a picture of a Los Angeles sunset. Burner took over a year to capture all the photographs used in “Moments,” the art exhibit presented in the Schauerman Library. Omar Rashad/The Union

“[For] one of the gals, Janice, who looks like she’s doing a ballerina dance, I had to up my shutter speed to capture her,” Burner said. “I used a wide angle lens and she just happened to be bringing our food so I got the shot I was looking for.”

Most of Burner’s photos were taken in Los Angeles and surrounding areas, which Camila Jenkin, 30-year-old Outreach Services Librarian at the Schauerman Library, thought was an important thing to highlight, especially in a library where most of it’s patrons are students and teachers who live in the Los Angeles area.

“When I first saw the black and white series of the Hot n Tot Cafe, my first thought is that I’ve driven by that so many times and never even given it a second thought — and suddenly it’s a photo series,” Jenkin said. “It’s not a place I’ve ever been inside but to see it immortalized in photos was pretty cool and it meant that it was meaningful to a lot of people.”

While the process was rewarding in the end, Linda’s project took over a year.

“It was always something I wanted to do, and it was a fun project. I took over 2000 pictures,” Burner said. “It’s a year-long process and I’m very proud of it because I’m not known as a street photographer but that project gave me a street photographer feel.”

Photographs of the Hot N Tot Diner in Lomita, CA taken by Linda Detweiler Burner, hanging in the Schauerman Library.
Photographs taken at Hot N Tot Diner in Lomita, California, by Linda Detwiler Burner, hang at an art exhibit entitled “Moments” in the Schauerman Library. “At the Hot & Tot I would just come in and sit, sometimes I got up, sometimes I took the picture from my seat. There was engagement with some of the folks in there,” Burner said. Molly Cochran/The Union

One of the teachers Linda identified as having contributed to her success is Michael Quinn, an associate adjunct professor of photography, who believes the way we improve is by analyzing what we’ve already done.

“It’s not a matter of being destructive, it’s constructive. I think we hear too much positive, more than we want to hear,” Quinn said. “[Photography] 223 B is basically just a critique class so we just sit around and we talk about each other’s work the entire semester.”

As a photographer himself, Quinn has concluded that a life of photography requires a lot of hard work and dedication, which Linda had from the beginning.

“She had a sincerity about what she was doing,” Quinn said. “She was one of those people that were wanting to learn the discipline and be very committed to improving it for herself.”

Quinn’s approach to teaching is to individualize his curriculum to each student, he said. Additionally, Quinn said he wants students to leave his class with certain skills in order to succeed in photography like the ability to think independently and use those thoughts to create art.

In Quinn’s class, Linda said she learned many good foundations from him and appreciated his critiques and suggestions as they improved her own skills. She took photographs of moments and through those photographs made a broader conclusion on the whirlwind passage of time.

“Life can change in an instant. When I was working on my write-ups and doing this show, the next day was when Kobe died,” Burner said. “Take time to smell the roses and enjoy the moments because they’re here and gone. Opportunities come, and sometimes you have to just take a chance.”

Editor’s Note: A name was corrected for its proper spelling on Tuesday, March 3 at 9:30 p.m.