Photographer Sam Comen and a team of collaborators will debut an exhibition this weekend to celebrate the untold stories, past and present, of Central Avenue in South LA. The exhibition, called Central Avenue: A Community Album, will display 150 historic photographs contributed by residents, business owners, and community groups in the neighborhood. The never before seen collection of photographs will be displayed together with Central Avenue 2012, a collection of new portraits taken by Comen. To collect the historic photos, Comen and Jason Neville, an LA city planner, canvassed the neighborhood to collect more than 500 photos dating back to the 1940s. Meanwhile, Comen, known for ambitious projects, spent six weeks walking, driving, and riding the neighborhood's streets, capturing portraits of the people he met along the way.
The team behind the collection conceived the project as an "arts-driven community revitalization effort"--deliberately timing the exhibition to commemorate the twentieth anniversary of the Los Angeles Riots (that infamous event occurred on April 29, 1992). The collection will refocus the common perception of the neighborhood with stories of family and community. "We're daylighting these extraordinary photos that would never have been otherwise seen, adding them to the historic record," Comen tells Curbed. As for the Central Avenue 2012 collection, "I've conveyed in my pictures that this is not the blighted 'South Central' people think of."
The project's revitalizing effort will also take a literal shape, adapting vacant commercial space in the heart of the Central-Adams neighborhood for the exhibition (the exhibition will take place at 2515 Central Ave., next to the Fresh & Easy). The exhibit also has the benefit of opening on the same weekend of another narrative-changing event, CicLAvia. Comen and Neville have worked with CicLAvia planners to create an informal spur to bring visitors to the exhibition space. Neville will guide groups from the main CicLAvia route to exhibition space every hour on the hour. The exhibition premiers on Saturday, April 14, 2012 from 7:00 to 10:00 pm.
· Central Avenue: A Community Album [Facebook]
· LA photographer points lens at Central Avenue [Southern California Public Radio]