The opening of “Central Avenue: A Community Album” on Saturday was a true success! One of the local business owners co-organizing the project said she’s never seen that scale of an event on Central Avenue in her whole time here — which is almost 60 years!
400 people came from all over Los Angeles to attend, and especially well-represented were neighborhood residents. On display were 200 photos collected from 44 residents, small business owners, and neighborhood organizations that show the fabric of daily life along Central Avenue from 1926 to 2012. Interwoven were my photos from 5 weeks of shooting in the neighborhood that portray it as it is today. The exhibition transformed a brand new 3,000sq/ft retail space into an immersive environment of projections on six 12x12’ screens. It was incredible.
The outpouring of positive feedback demanded an extension to the planned one-week run. With that in mind, the venue’s owner Meta Housing has generously
EXTENDED THE RUN OF THE COMMUNITY ALBUM EXHIBITION THROUGH SAT 4/28.
An immersive projected show was the perfect fit for the “Community Album.” The six 12’ wide screens effectively filled the 3,000 square foot space, and scale gave the photos ample room to impact a viewer. More significantly, anyone in the space would be surrounded by screens constantly presenting them with new groupings of contrasting views of this historic neighborhood.
Building the space out with grip and lighting equipment evoked the feel of a photo shoot at this photo-based community event. I liked that, and besides, I work with the gear all the time, and it was the perfect tool to leave no trace on the building
Quixote generously provided all the medium roller stands and 15’ pipes our hearts desired. Lucie Foundation gave us one 150’ roll of 12’ wide white seamless background paper. The challenge for me and Tony Wilson, who meticulously rolled the paper onto the pipes with me, was to use that one large roll to make all six of the 10’ tall screens. You can see all six of those screens in the photos below.
Once we had the screens built, and the projectors placed, artistic polyglot (and the man who encouraged me to project the show rather than make prints in the first place) Mark Dugally came in to meticulously measure and adhere the beautiful window decals designed by Stephen Serrato.
Complete main east-facing window, viewed from outside, on Central Avenue.
Me and Tony Wilson nudge the welcome text into position.
Jason and I with the welcome text. Happy.
Jason Neville and I intentionally scheduled the opening weekend of the “Central Avenue: A Community Album" to coincide with April 2012’s CicLAvia. The event, which closes 10 miles of Los Angeles streets to car traffic for five twice a year, has been in talks with the city to extend the route to engage South LA via Central Avenue. We wanted to work with them to create enthusiasm for that route extension, and so we implemented an informal spur.
We hung a huge banner (beautifully designed, as were all of the project’s graphics, by Stephen Serrato) at the African American Firefighter Museum CicLAvia hub, and each hour on the hour, Jason and I led bike tours the .8 miles to Central and Adams.
Over the course of the day about 200 cyclists took the brief ride saw the immersive projected show.
Above photo by Gary Leonard
CicLAvia love provided in the above photo by Deirdre Backs.
Our alliance with CicLAvia was a perfect fit: Both the larger event and this photographic endeavor are ephemeral happenings that provoke a reassessment of Los Angeles’ cityscape, and stoke conversations that continue long after the events have passed.
So many reputable news, opinion, and arts outlets have covered the project in the past week. Now, just to bring it all together for Saturday April 14th’s opening.
Photo information: Diver in unidentified park c.1965. By Alvan Burton, photographer and Central Avenue resident (1925-2009,) contributed by Darrell Hobson.
For the past six weeks I’ve been pushing a cart of photo gear through the neighborhoods in South LA surrounding storied Central Avenue, making portraits of the people I meet along the way.
I’ve also been working with urban planner Jason Neville and a team of small business owners and non-profit organizations in the area to collect and scan photos from community residents’ photo albums.
All this in an effort to create “CENTRAL AVENUE: A COMMUNITY ALBUM” a historical and contemporary photographic survey of the area synonymous with the 1920s-1950s black intellectual and musical golden age in Los Angeles, the blight of the post-war decades, and the 1965 and 1992 LA riots.
On the eve of the April 2012 ‘anniversary’ of the riots, this collection of never-before-seen photos shows the daily life behind the powerful and polarized narratives of this place, and broadens the conversation about South LA.
Jason Neville and I met up at Macarthur Park this morning to see the new bicycle PSA poster unveiled, hear about improvements to this month’s CicLAvia, and to build some excitement within the bike community about our bike tours from CicLAvia’s southern spur to “Central Avenue: A Community Album.”
An iphone snap of the kick-off press conference.
The Community Album co-organizers have been reaching out to the Central Ave community in search of residents (past and present) who want to contribute photos from their personal albums. Calls and emails have gone out far and wide. We’ve walked Central Ave from Vernon to Adams putting up these posters:
But what we’ve all found most effective are the personal connections we make in the process of walking the Avenue, putting up posters, and introducing ourselves and our project.
Take, for example, my visit to the tenants’ meeting at the Juanita Tate Legacy Towers at 49th and Central, immediately below.
I presented the project to all those at the meeting, showed some examples of my previous portrait work, shared the plan for the installation, and our hopes for an eventual permanent home for this new archive we’re assembling.
After my initial visit to the Legacy Towers, and two more follow-up visits there, I met Mr. Will Yancey, who invited me to his Masonic lodge just a few blocks away to take a look through their archives. What a privilege. Beyond the organization’s archives, Mr. Yancey shared the personal collection of Frank J. Bobo, the “big dog,” in Yancey’s words, of the Lodge in the 1960s and 1970s. Bobo and his wife are both now deceased. I’m honored that we can daylight Bobo’s wonderful family photos, stretching back to 1936, in the April 14 show.
Mr. Yancey, me, and co-organizer Jason Neville at the lodge, sorting through 75 years of snapshots.
Another local institution in the neighborhood that was incredibly helpful was Saint Patricks Catholic Church. Jason reached out to Father Timothy Dyer, who invited him to speak to the congregation at 3 different Sunday masses. Jason asked them to bring their family albums the following Sunday.
The next Sunday we were there, ready to scan. This was our little mobile scanning station.
***UPDATE*** At the end of the community contribution process, we collected over 800 images from 44 unique individuals and organizations. From those, I chose 250 images that, with 40 of my pictures, comprised the installation.