Brought up in a military family, John Humble spent his childhood moving around the country from one military base to another. Humble was drafted during the Vietnam War, then became a photojournalist for the Washington Post before pursuing a graduate degree at the San Francisco Art Institute. His itinerant nature continued when he traveled the world in the early 1970s, going from Europe to the Middle East, then to Africa and Asia in his Volkswagen van. However, since the summer of 1974 Humble has lived in one place: Los Angeles. His traveling instinct did not diminish despite his fixed geographical location; rather, it intensified as he traversed the length and breadth of the city (from the San Fernando Valley and East Los Angeles to Venice and the shores of Long Beach), creating images that explore the postmodern qualities of America's second largest city. Humble's desire to capture "the incongruities and ironies of the Los Angeles landscape" results in a compelling body of work where power lines cut across blue skies, freeways divide neighborhoods and a river bisects the city.
Humble began working with a 35mm camera, favoring black-and-white prints, but in September 1979 he bought his first view camera and switched to color printing, producing first Cibachrome, then chromogenic prints. In the 1970s color emerged within the tradition of photography, most notably in the 1976 exhibition Photographs by William Eggleston at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. No longer confined to the commercial domain of advertising, color photography gained recognition as a valid expression of fine art. For Humble, the choice was clear; to fully capture the realities of the city--what he refers to as "the urban landscape"--color was essential.