These frames are from Southeast Drive, a series on Southeast Los Angeles (SELA) portraying daily life in and around the city I have lived in since 1992. The photographs respond to a comment I heard years ago, which characterized SELA as a “war zone”, presumably for the high rate of crime. In the whereabouts of my neighborhood, however, I have only witnessed people earning a living and minding their own, which often includes caring for loved ones. I have thus concluded that the “war-zone” depiction stems from fear or prejudice towards the other.

For the series, I wanted to illustrate how I experience SELA. I wanted to capture the scenes and spaces I observe every day. I used a Nikon N90s, Nikon Nikkor 17-35mm F/2.8 AF-D and Kodak Tri-X 400 – the same lens and film I have used for other projects. This time, however, I photographed from my car because that is how I move around. I include a mirror to add the contexts that are left out by the unidirectional perspective of the camera. I also wanted to capture subjects sequentially but driving while taking photos only allowed me to take one or two frames of the same subject.

Fortunately, the last roll of the series started with a sequence of the same subject. The first five frames capture an interaction between a mother and son awaiting a bus. It is one scene of many I often saw while driving around looking for photographs. The scene unfolded before I saw it and continued thereafter.

I only captured five frames thanks to a traffic light that turned red and forced me to stop the car right in front of the mother and son, and just as he turned to her and right before both looked west trying to locate an eastbound bus on Firestone Blvd.

~ Leopoldo

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About the author

Leopoldo Peña

Leopoldo Peña was born in Michoacán, México and has lived in Los Angeles since 1992. His photographic work is centered on immigration and modern environment. He works on long-term documentary projects with an emphasis on Mexican indigenous cultural performance...

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