Skip to main content

Artist's Reflection

When the mayor of my town instituted a stay-at-home order I thought about what a safe COVID-19 photography project would look like.

Over the last five years I have collected archival photos, ranging from the 1940s to 1980s, of Mexican American lowriders in Los Angeles. I decided to explore these images and begin an Instagram project where I post a couple photographs each day. Memories are powerful especially when we are limited in what we can currently do.

How did I come to have this large collection of archival lowrider photos? For the last five years I have been working on a photography book, Cruise Night, about the Mexican American lowrider community in Los Angeles. While publishers urged me to have a prestigious academic or an art-world celebrity write my book essay, I knew that the only text I wanted in the book were the voices of the lowriders. I spent over a hundred hours driving all over Los Angeles County recording oral histories of the elder lowriders, people who were the pioneers of this movement.

When we would set up the interview time, I inquired whether they had any old photos I could see and if they would let me scan them. In the back of my head I knew I wanted to do a second book titled Recuerdos that solely featured their photos. I brought my large desktop scanner to their homes or auto garages and spent hours sifting through and scanning their photo collections. It is very rare to find these kinds of photos, as many people did not own cameras.

Cruise Night was originally scheduled to be released in Fall 2020. As a result of the pandemic and my publishers, Damiani, being based in Italy, we decided the book would be released in Spring 2021. Since there has been a year extension, I will begin to work on Recuerdos and the books can sit side-by-side next year.

In some ways, the current crisis re-energized me to engage on this second book and revisit this amazing collection.

On May 13th I did a podcast interview with Drifting on Memories at my art studio where we discussed the archival photos I have collected.

— Kristin Bedford, MFA EDA

Located at the intersection of aesthetics and social realism, Kristin Bedford’s photography explores race, visual stereotypes and communal self-expression. Through long-term engagement with communities, Bedford makes photographs that invite us to reconsider prevalent visual narratives around cultural and spiritual movements. 

We invited artists from Duke's MFA EDA community to share work they have made in response to the coronavirus crisis. See the full "Home & Away" collection here.