By CHRISTOPHER MORALES
East Los Angeles — Local youth photographer Metztli Garcia struggled to find a theme for her first solo exhibit but eventually decided on one: gratitude to her hometown.
“All of my life I’ve been raised in or by East L.A. culture. It’s what made me. It’s not just the physical location, but the identity. The culture is no longer just in East L.A. – it’s all throughout L.A., being passed on, spread out through L.A. I wanted to say thank you somehow,” explained Garcia.
Her exhibit, “Thank You, East Los,” which opened earlier this month, brings to life this vibrant, ethnically diverse area, where one can find delicious food, a variety of music and local small businesses. Area food joints are drawn as a place to eat and hang out with friends after school. Interiors of low riders shine in homage to the automobile scene. Portraits of dancers stand tall to remind one of their indigenous ancestors. Candid moments of storekeepers and street vendors prove that people in East L.A. work hard to sustain their families. Youth activists and community members deliver a message, to fight for change.
Garcia’s work is the result of her involvement with Las Fotos, a nonprofit organization that created the opportunity for Garcia and other Southern California teen-aged girls to create and display their visual art.
Garcia joined it in 2015 and has been active since. Her work “poetically captures the culture, values and spirit of her community through her lens,” the Las Fotos Project noted on its Facebook page.
“Las Fotos Project has created an outlet for me, a creative way for me to express myself and my cultural heritage,” she said. “It’s something beautiful. It’s something you don’t see a lot. All of this is about appreciating the beauty and struggles that I’ve faced along the way.”
Garcia has left East L.A. to attend college at the UCLA. But she remains grateful for the experiences and support the Las Fotos Project afforded her. For instance, it provided access to equipment and let her work alongside professionals. She intends to continue with photography and stand up for women in the male-dominated industry.
“This is the place where I discovered my values,” she said. “Being here, you notice so many injustices and struggles that people face in the real world. I want everybody to not forget, to not lose hope. Programs like Las Fotos Project have your back, so always reach out and don’t be afraid.”
“Thank You, East Los” is open to the public between 5 pm and 7 p.m. on Saturdays through Sept. 8 at Las Fotos Project, 2658 Pasadena Ave. Los Angeles. A closing reception will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. on Sat., Sept. 15, 2018. More information is available on Las Fotos’ events page on Facebook.
Christopher Morales is a Lincoln Heights native currently majoring in communications at Cornell University
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