Photo Walk: Olvera Street and Union Station

An impromptu day trip to Olvera Street in DTLA for people watching and street photography. 

Took the train into Union Station, which is classic Los Angeles in Mission Moderne style—a blend of Spanish Colonial, Mission Revival, and Art Deco architecture.

I grew up thinking Olvera Street was the preserved remnants of a small Mexican village, but learned recently it was actually saved from demolition and built as a tribute to Mexican culture that had existed here before urbanization. 

Still, Olvera Street features some deep history of LA, including the Avila Adobe (the oldest house in Los Angeles), the oldest living grape vines in Los Angeles, and a stone pathway marking one of the founding water channels of the Pueblo de Los Angeles.

Mexican vendors selling toys, decor, music, games, clothing, and food are are meshed together in this small, cramped street. I wanted to order the famous taquitos from Cielito Lindo, but being vegan the only menu option seemed to be a Soyrizo and potato burrito. It sounded delicious but my appetite wasn’t quite ready for it.

I caught some dancing in the nearby Plaza de Los Angeles (the oldest plaza in California)  where I couldn’t help but feel the sheer joy of seeing people simply dancing in the streets. I’ve been coming to Olvera Street since childhood, and it was good to feel this place once again.

Photo Diary: January Windstorm Aftermath

The first month of the year has been eventful in many ways. For me it hasn’t been very eventful photographically. I’ve had jobs cancel due to pandemic worries. I’ve found myself once again preoccupied with household chores and projects that somehow never got finished during the actual lockdowns. The camera has been down.

Last night, however, the Santa Ana winds came through–hard. I was born and raised here in Southern California, and never have I experienced winds like these. Gusts of over 60 mph blasting through my quiet little suburban enclave nestled up against the Angeles National Forest. I didn’t sleep well as I witnessed helplessly the winds tear apart my backyard, moving furniture and toppling pottery. I’ve always taken comfort in knowing that on the hillside below our home are very old and very tall trees that protect us from the elements. Imagine my shock when I looked out the window during the storm to see that several had fallen into a neighbor’s property, damaging their fence and crushing their patio.

In the morning, all seemed to be still as I woke up from a few hours of sleep. I photographed the fallen trees above.

Today meant a lot of clean up and some rest. I heard crews around town cleaning up the destruction from last night. Later on I stopped by an old park that I often photograph. Several large old pines fell in the winds, completely uprooted. Several folks stopped to see the massive roots shoved above ground.

The Lonely Street Photographer – Bowlium and Bobcat Fire

Bowlium Lanes in Montclair, CA

I realize my posts are pretty heavy on the black and white images, when normally I enjoy vibrancy, bright colors, lots of contrast. The truth is the last few weeks have been a doozy for me personally. Much of where I’m feeling mentally has been marked by a sense of melancholy. The bleak skies of Southern California during fire season. The tilt of the earth as seasons change and shadows lengthen. On a fairly decent day, one that was still blazing hot, I took my camera out near my old hometown of Ontario and snapped this vintage bowling alley, Bowlium. Only to realize of course that the Bobcat Fire had sent up a new plum of smoke and seemed to be heading toward my home.

All is well at the moment. My main objective in a very chaotic time is still a lot of self care.

An image of Matt Lara, the photographer, reflected in a window pane.

The Lonely Street Photographer

Most of my photography began with taking street photos. I had just moved to NYC and had a small point and shoot camera, this was long before smart phones.

Copyright Matt Lara Photography

My stepdad, also a photographer, saw some snapshots I’d emailed him and insisted I keep shooting, and eventually gave me a hand-me-down DSLR.

The pandemic hit right as several years of my photography work with clients was starting to pay off. I’d spent a long time building a decent portfolio of work doing corporate events and portraits, and wasn’t doing much street photo work.

Copyright Matt Lara Photography

Like many freelance artists, I struggled with what to do as I faced an entire half of my year of canceled shoots and plans down the drain.

I have a few cameras I shoot with now, some that I’ve inherited. One being a Leica Q, which I’ve been taking out as often as I can during an intense summer of heat and California wildfires.

Copyright Matt Lara Photography

Safety is, of course, my priority. And while pandemic fatigue sets in and people on social media are posting group events forgoing masks or social distancing, I think people are still home and lonely. Loneliness isn’t exactly a bad thing to me. I hope I can convey that in these shots.

The statue seen here is title “ghandiG” by Peter Shelton, on the campus of Pomona College.
All images Copyright Matt Lara Photography 2020