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inside a mercado in lennox california

A Photo Tour of Inglewood and Lennox, California

Last weekend I had the great pleasure of doing a photo tour in the Downtown Los Angeles Arts Districts with new contacts from the Instagram group Beers and Cameras LA. One of those new contacts was Katia Monroy-Santos who stood out to me with her eye for 1990’s grunge band photography. Some of my favorite works of hers are these summer vibin’ 35mm shots of her long-haired friends wearing baggy flannel shirts, scuffed up leather boots and black pants with holes in them and chillin’ along vibrant yellow stucco walls of a retro motel. Since seeing these shots, I was curious to learn from Katia, her way of viewing the world, so I asked for the chance to shoot with her.

This last Sunday, Katia took me on a photo tour of a segment of her neighborhood – Inglewood; she’s originally from Hawthorne, but grew up with kids from Inglewood and neighboring Lennox, so she knows the area well. Inglewood and Lennox are both working-class business and residential districts of Los Angeles. According to Katia, the neighborhoods are comprised of Mexican and Ghanaian families which gives to the area’s eclectic restaurants and market finds.

We started off at Randy’s Donuts, which can be described as a Los Angeles staple. Randy’s has been around for generations and was originally owned by two brothers who made the Dodger donut – a blue glazed traditional donut – that was sold whenever the LA Dodgers were playing. Since when nobody knows for sure, Randy’s was sold to new owners who increased their prices but also brought new items to the menu- like the fruit loop donut and the orange cream donut. This place is so good that lines wrap the building and even trail into the busy Manchester intersection at which it’s located, all days of the week and at all hours it’s open for business. You might also recognize the massive donut icon via the hiphop band Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, also known as Odd Future, or via one of the band’s founding members, Tyler the Creator who has performed with Pharrell Williams and A$AP Rocky.

The Sunday when Katia and I hung out, I indulged on the Nutella donut and maple glaze donut from Randy’s and, yes, it was everything you imagine it would be.

We walked around Inglewood’s business district, comprised of retro car washes, liquor stores, massive sun withered warehouses, a juxtaposed corner of iconic fast good joints and ugly vintage motels.

Along the way we met a sweet lady whose name I cannot remember, but who is a security guard for the Amazon deliveries at a warehouse behind one of the ugly motels I mentioned. She was slurpin’ a fantastically bright orange slurpee under the LA winter sunshine. We got to talking and learned that the security guard gig was her day job because the pay was decent and the job easy, which allowed her to do what she really does when she eventually clocks off: makeup artistry. She told us that as a security guard, the only downside to the job is the homelessness that is kind of everywhere in Los Angeles. Although they don’t bother her, they do leave a mess on her stoop and warehouse entryways that require cleanup. Otherwise, she hangs out, slurps slurpees and plans for her next makeup gig.

Up the road, we met Tonito from Mexico. He’s a fruit vendor. He and his fruit stand stood out among the cement and street signs as being one of the most colorful spots in Inglewood. He was excited to have his photo taken and even more so to learn that Katia spoke Spanish – she is a second generation Mexican American. Apparently he could tell I was an Americana because of my eyes. lol

We entered one of the liquor and wine stores along the way and asked the tender for permission to take his photo. He said “no”, but that we could take just one photo inside of his store. So, this is the one photo I got.

inside a liquor store in inglewood california

Then we got back into our cars and made way for Lennox, which is about 10 minutes south of Inglewood. We parked near the Lennox Library and did a photo tour of this different residential district with its Mexican tienditas and mercados de carne. Here are some of my favorite shots of the area.

Katia told me that some notable sports heroes come from Lennox, like Russel Westbrook, a professional basketball player with Oklahoma City and Gyasi Zardes, a professional soccer player with Columbus Crew SC. Katia actually went to school with Zardes. According to her, he was all about soccer even way back when, so when he made it as a professional, it came as no surprise to Katia and her fellow classmates. Katia also mentioned that when Zardes made it big, he gave a lot back to his neighborhood, transforming these old tennis courts that nobody used into outdoor turf soccer fields. The town even painted a mural of Zardes on one of the community center walls as tribute and thanks for giving the community something it would indefinitely use.

We eventually finished the photo tour, separated ways and planned for another photo tour weekend in the near future. This next Sunday, March 11th, I’ll be attending the Bargain Camera Show in Pasadena, which I hear is FANTASTIC. Stay tuned for more on that.

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