SAM COMEN PHOTOGRAPHY
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Central Avenue

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, unemployment and poverty, tragically punctuated not once but twice by devastating riots in 1965 and 1992. As the vivid memories of the 1992 civil unrest resurfaced in April 2012, it was a salient moment for Angelenos to take a closer look at this storied place.

Over the past 20 years, a combination of immigrant 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 consists of two complimentary bodies of work: a new archive of family photographs (1926–2012) collected from current and former Central Avenue residents by Comen and project co-organizer Jason Neville, and a the following series of contemporary photographs which Comen made in March 2012. These two series of photographs create a new historical record of Central Avenue, adding the punctuation of everyday moments into the broader strokes of its dramatic history.  -- Sam Comen & Jason Neville

 On March 1, 2012, Ignacio Gonzalez watches over his barber shop on Central Ave. and 42nd St while Johnny Vera trims Juan Guitron (L) and Alex Vargas finishes work on Oscar Sanchez.

On March 1, 2012, Ignacio Gonzalez watches over his barber shop on Central Ave. and 42nd St while Johnny Vera trims Juan Guitron (L) and Alex Vargas finishes work on Oscar Sanchez.

 Magali Acosta at work in a bodega on Central Ave. and 42nd St. on March 1, 2012.

Magali Acosta at work in a bodega on Central Ave. and 42nd St. on March 1, 2012.

 Darlene and Quincy Newell, photographed on Central Ave. and 42nd St. on their way to Mr. Newell's mother's home on March 1, 2012.

Darlene and Quincy Newell, photographed on Central Ave. and 42nd St. on their way to Mr. Newell's mother's home on March 1, 2012.

 Valentin Romero mixes fresh concrete while Juan Hernandez trowels it into place on E. 43rd St. on March 3, 2012.

Valentin Romero mixes fresh concrete while Juan Hernandez trowels it into place on E. 43rd St. on March 3, 2012.

 Team Infamous takes a break from riding north on Central Ave. at Adams Blvd. on March 3, 2012.

Team Infamous takes a break from riding north on Central Ave. at Adams Blvd. on March 3, 2012.

 A craftsman home is scrapped on 20th St just west of Central Ave. on March 3, 2012.

A craftsman home is scrapped on 20th St just west of Central Ave. on March 3, 2012.

 Efrain Marcos waiting to wash his car on Central Ave. and 42nd St. on March 3, 2012.

Efrain Marcos waiting to wash his car on Central Ave. and 42nd St. on March 3, 2012.

 Manuel Ramirez at work at second- hand appliance store on Central Ave. and 33rd St on March 5, 2012.

Manuel Ramirez at work at second- hand appliance store on Central Ave. and 33rd St on March 5, 2012.

 Anais Pelayo at La Fortuna meat market, her husband's family's business, at Central Ave. and 32nd St. on March 5, 2012.

Anais Pelayo at La Fortuna meat market, her husband's family's business, at Central Ave. and 32nd St. on March 5, 2012.

 Jun Bradley (in plaid) and Donald Lewis shoot pool while John Pierce and Lloyd Johnson look on at the Lindsay Senior Center on March 14, 2012.

Jun Bradley (in plaid) and Donald Lewis shoot pool while John Pierce and Lloyd Johnson look on at the Lindsay Senior Center on March 14, 2012.

 Antonio Morales on March 14, 2012, at the corner of Central Ave. and 41st St, where he sells raspados and elotes each afternoon.

Antonio Morales on March 14, 2012, at the corner of Central Ave. and 41st St, where he sells raspados and elotes each afternoon.

 Juan Carrillo, Zena Gramajo, Mariela Godinez, and Grecia Andrade puase at Central Ave. and 41st St. on their way home from Jefferson High School on March 14, 2012.

Juan Carrillo, Zena Gramajo, Mariela Godinez, and Grecia Andrade puase at Central Ave. and 41st St. on their way home from Jefferson High School on March 14, 2012.

 Julio Ramirez in his repair shop at Central Ave. and 56th St. on March 15, 2012.

Julio Ramirez in his repair shop at Central Ave. and 56th St. on March 15, 2012.

 Ms. B. Love, photographed on Central Ave. just north of Vernon Ave. on March 20, 2012.

Ms. B. Love, photographed on Central Ave. just north of Vernon Ave. on March 20, 2012.

 Justino Santos stands with a truckload of new citrus boxes in front of his home on 43rd St and Wadsworth Ave on March 20, 2012.

Justino Santos stands with a truckload of new citrus boxes in front of his home on 43rd St and Wadsworth Ave on March 20, 2012.

 Manuela Rendon at her family home on E. 43rd St. near Avalon Blvd. on March 20, 2012.

Manuela Rendon at her family home on E. 43rd St. near Avalon Blvd. on March 20, 2012.

 Sisters Banadia and Esbeldy Morales at the corner of Vernon and Central Avenues on March 20, 2012.

Sisters Banadia and Esbeldy Morales at the corner of Vernon and Central Avenues on March 20, 2012.

 Simon "Pappa Si" Redditt, age 105, in his apartment in the Juanita Tate Legacy Towers on Central Avenue and 49th Pl. on March 21, 2012.

Simon "Pappa Si" Redditt, age 105, in his apartment in the Juanita Tate Legacy Towers on Central Avenue and 49th Pl. on March 21, 2012.

 Gabriel Villa gives Dalecia Berry acrylic nails in the salon at Central Ave. and 42nd St. on March 22, 2012.

Gabriel Villa gives Dalecia Berry acrylic nails in the salon at Central Ave. and 42nd St. on March 22, 2012.

 Victor Rosenberg and Corey Graves at Central Ave. and 40th Pl on their way home from Jefferson High School on March 22, 2012.

Victor Rosenberg and Corey Graves at Central Ave. and 40th Pl on their way home from Jefferson High School on March 22, 2012.

 Thomas Aaron outside his apartment at Naomi Ave. and 35th St. on March 22, 2012.

Thomas Aaron outside his apartment at Naomi Ave. and 35th St. on March 22, 2012.

 The styling staff at Isabel Cabrera's salon on Central Ave. and 40th Pl. on March 24, 2012.

The styling staff at Isabel Cabrera's salon on Central Ave. and 40th Pl. on March 24, 2012.

 Galvin McElroy at the corner of Compton and E. 32nd on March 26, 2012.

Galvin McElroy at the corner of Compton and E. 32nd on March 26, 2012.

 Antonia Centellan waits for the westbound bus at Central Ave. and Slauson Ave. with grand-daughter Ashley Giselle Flores on March 27, 2012.

Antonia Centellan waits for the westbound bus at Central Ave. and Slauson Ave. with grand-daughter Ashley Giselle Flores on March 27, 2012.

 Gustavo Barroso welds a new staircase with Valencia Garcia and Ishmael Barroso on Hooper Ave. on March 27, 2012.

Gustavo Barroso welds a new staircase with Valencia Garcia and Ishmael Barroso on Hooper Ave. on March 27, 2012.

 Sunset at the Palm Sunday festival at St. Patrick's Church at Central Ave. and Jefferson Blvd. on April 1, 2012.

Sunset at the Palm Sunday festival at St. Patrick's Church at Central Ave. and Jefferson Blvd. on April 1, 2012.