In February I began volunteering at Venice Arts, a local media arts program for youth. I needed to get out of the house, out of my head, and my mom suggested I check it out. They offer a variety of programs – photography, filmmaking, graphic art, animation – to primarily low income middle and high schoolers. I became a volunteer mentor in an intermediate photography class. The theme of the class was “youth culture”, and the students worked in groups illuminating the various aspects of that culture through photography. Ultimate they produced a series of photo cards with text that commented on the 6 areas chosen at the beginning of the class: Music, Consumerism, Drugs, Sports, Fashion, and Culture, as well as individual photographs for a fold-up paper box to hold the cards. Ironic isn’t it? Youth culture in a box.
The work was fabulous, these kids have such a fresh unencumbered viewpoint that even after a lifetime in photography I learned as much as they did. Maybe more. Additionally, being able to give a little back of my own photographic knowledge allowed me to be a bit closer to Jake. He was an accomplished photographer and began his photographic journey in earnest at just about the same age as my students. It was bittersweet to be sure, and since my emotions were still so raw and ragged, I had to walk away from the group once in a while to compose myself.
One of our field trips took us to the Ocean Front Walk in Venice. If there ever was a hotbed of youth culture, this is it. A stretch of souvenir shops, pizza stands and tattoo parlors along with an array of street vendors, musicians, performers, beggars, homeless, tourists, residents hanging out on balconies, sidewalk cafes; it really must be experienced to appreciate. No trip to Venice is complete without a visit.
I couldn’t resist this photo. The bright red couch served as waiting area for two establishments – tattoo parlor and marijuana dispensary. You could get inked and baked all at once.