CENTRAL AVENUE: A COMMUNITY ALBUM Is a photography collection showing the Central Avenue neighborhood through the lenses of those who live and work there, alongside contemporary portraits by Sam Comen.


 

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About CENTRAL AVENUE: A COMMUNITY ALBUM

The project was co-organized by Sam Comen, Jason Neville, Lynda Wilson, Vivian Bowers, Azusena Favela, Charyn Harris, Johnny Andrade, Tony Wilson and Alma Catalan in the winter of 2012. They collected 800 images from curent and former Central Avenue residents, and Comen completed work on a set of twenty photos made while walking the neighborhood.
 
The never-before-seen collection premiered to the public with an immersive projected exhibition showing more than 250 photographs. In the two-week-long run of the show, 1,000 people visited the collection’s temporary home in a 3,500 square foot space on “The Avenue” generously donated by Meta Housing.
 
At Central Avenue Jazz Fest 2012, the project will premiere as a 12‘ tall cube wrapped in billboard-sized banners displaying 200 photos from the collection. Councilwoman Jan Perry and affordable housing developer Thomas Safran have made this possible.
 
The project organzers are continuing to expand the collection. If you'd like to contribute your photos, or you'd like to get in touch, you can email us here.


 

The background of CENTRAL AVENUE: A COMMUNITY ALBUM

In the 1920s through early 1950s, Central Avenue was one of the United States’ most culturally and politically significant districts— home of West Coast Jazz, crucible of civil rights activism, and an inspiring case of economic prosperity in the face of racial prejudice. Yet in only a decade, it became a national symbol of urban decay: crime, physical blight, unemploy- ment and poverty, tragically punctuated not once but twice by devastating riots in 1965 and 1992. As the vivid memories of the 1992 civil unrest resurface this month, it is a salient moment for us Angelenos to take a closer look at this storied place.
 
Over the past 20 years, a combination of immi- grant entrepreneurialism, determined long- time local business owners, new public investment, and veneration for the Avenue’s special history have catalyzed an economic renaissance here.
 
Central Avenue: A Community Album presents a new archive of photographs (1926–2012) showing a very personal history of life here shown through the lens of family snapshots and a new series of contemporary photographs by documentary photographer Sam Comen.
 
Together, these two series of photographs create a palimpsest that is a new historical record of Central Avenue, adding the punctua- tion of everyday moments into the broader strokes of its dramatic history.
— April 2012

Central Avenue: A Community AlbumCENTRAL AVENUE: A COMMUNITY ALBUM Is a photography collection showing the Central Avenue neighborhood through the lenses of those who live and work there, alongside contemporary portraits by Sam Comen.
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Wil Molett’s uncle Andrew Whittaker (far right), with friends on 42nd west of Central. Circa 1960. (Photo contributed by Wil Molett)
Bertha B. Kirby in front of service station owned by her brother, located at Central and Florence. August 1962.  (Photo contributed by Wil Molett)
Bertha B. Kirby in front of service station owned by her brother, located at Central and Florence. August 1962.  (Photo contributed by Wil Molett)
Pasqual Huerta at the furniture factory where he then worked, on Western Avenue. Not dated.  (Photo contributed by Petra Huerta)
Leticia Guiterrez, circa 1998 at their house at 42nd and Central, after her first communion. (Photo contributed by Petra Huerta)
Pilar Garcia, Rafael Alcaraz, Petra Huerta.  (Photo contributed by Petra Huerta)
Arturo Huerta’s first communion at St. Patrick’s church, prior to its renovation. Circa 1999.  (Photo contributed by Petra Huerta)
Birthday party for Lily at South Park, 1999.  (Photo contributed by Petra Huerta)
Petra Huerta with family in their backyard near 42nd and Central, circa 2000.  From left, standing Alfredo (brother in law), Pilar Garcia, Petra. From left, sitting: Adan, Jose Luis Ramos, Carloina Cruz, baby Kennedy Garcia.  (Photo contributed by Petra Huerta)
Photo contributed by Petra Huerta.
Adriana Huerta and friends at Jefferson High School. Date unknown.  (Photo contributed by Petra Huerta)
Pasqual Huerta in Colima, Mexico. Circa 1998.  (Photo contributed by Petra Huerta)
George Washington Carver Junior High School, summer of 1961. Contributed by Ms. Merkel. 
Rufus Simpkins at his service station at 2227 Central Ave. Date Unknown.  (Photo contributed by Nicole Vick)
Cocktails at Simpkins Residence. 3639 Fairway Blvd in View Park. Tommie and Rufus Simpkins behind the bar. Circa 1965.  (Photo contributed by Nicole Vick)