Flow: A Community's Relationship to Water

During the winter of 2019, four Las Fotos Project teen photographers investigated the connections that exist between the global water crisis and Los Angeles using a combination of photography, storytelling, and field research. Flow: A Community’s Relationship to Water, is the result of their 6-week study on water issues, the impact on communities in Los Angeles and its connection to women.

With its expansive reach of 52 miles from end to end, the Los Angeles River became the students’ aortic subject matter. Students learned how to conduct field research utilizing participatory observation methods and interviews to collect their data. They then mapped their findings using geographic information system (GIS) technology to create a multi-dimensional view of how our communities engage with one of the largest bodies of water in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.

However, as its name states, Flow is not just a study of the Los Angeles River, but a study of the city’s relationship to water; a view of how consumption and conservation are in a constant push and pull, especially in areas where access to clean water sources are limited. By documenting daily consumption, urban sources of clean water and the stories of Indigenous women who work to protect water, the four photographers captured the cultural distance that exists between communities and water in a city with a major aquatic thoroughfare just a few miles away.

Flow: A Community’s Relationship to Water is created in partnership with the national collaborative project, Water is a Woman’s Issue, spearheaded by Lower Eastside Girls Club in New York. The project connects Las Fotos Project with sister organizations in Montana (VOICES from the Flathead Reservation), New York City (The Lower Eastside Girls Club), Mexico (Club Balam in Chiapas), and New Orleans (YAYA) to examine how water impacts women in our home communities and the potential strategies to protect them both.

“The water connects us to who we are as people and how we connect from generation to generation. The landscape is a reflection of who we are.” – Julia Bogany

Featured Photographers:⁣⠀

Andrea Popoca, age 12⁣⠀
Celeste Umaña, age 13⁣⠀
Maria Romero, age 16⁣⠀
Xochitl Cruz, age 14⁣⠀⁣⠀

Teaching Artist:⁣⠀

Arlene Mejorado⁣⠀

Volunteer Mentors:⁣

Leah Choi⁣⠀
Leah Hubbard⁣⠀

Made possible by:

This exhibition was made possible thanks to the support of the Weingart Foundation, California Community Foundation, Ahmanson Foundation, Annenberg Foundation, Horace Goldsmith Foundation, Dwight Stuart Youth Fund, Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, Vernon CommUNITY Fund, Photographic Arts Council Los Angeles, City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, LA River Master Plan, Edward A and Ai O Shay Family Foundation, United Latinx Fund, and the Yerba Buena Fund.

Special Thanks to:

Angela Mooney D’Arcy
Briana J. Castañeda
Caroline Ward
Deborah Scacco
Jessa Calderon
Joel Garcia
Julia Bogany
Kelly Caballero
Kimberly Miranda
Kimberly Robertson
Pamela Villaseñor

Andrea Popoca
Celeste Umana
Mario Romero
Xochitl Cruz

Hover over each photo to read image captions.

Photos: Xochitl Cruz
Title: Compare and Contrast
Location: Los Angeles River Access Point

When I took this picture, it hit me that I had found a way to capture a diptych without combining two photos or digitally editing. I thought it was interesting how this “street” was the only thing separating a strong flow of water and a packing warehouse. On one side, there was a clean, refreshing liquid substance (water) vigorously hitting the rocks, and then there was what looked like a dry, abandoned packing warehouse with empty cardboard boxes littering the floor. Viewers should think about how we often alienate ourselves from water and only use it when it’s convenient for us, and how we don’t have the connection with water that we should.

Photos: Xotchitl Cruz
Title: Te Necesito
Location: Los Ángeles River Access Point
At this particular river access point, there was a lot of trash and graffiti. This one piece stuck out to me, because I believe we take water for granted. We don’t respect it or do our best to conserve and protect it, considering all that we use it for. The audience should take some time to reflect and ask themselves why they think we don’t respect water, considering all it does, and how important it is in our day to day lives.

Zoom in & out of the map and click on the drop-pins to view images and interviews from along the Los Angeles River. 

Photos: Celeste Umana
Title: Tongva Beauty
Location: Lincoln/Cypress Goldline Metro Station
The Lincoln/Cypress Goldline Metro Station is home to an installation titled “Water Street: River of Dreams” by Cheri Gaulke about the connection between
Tongva people and LA’s water landscape. Here, Julia Bogany stands next to the water woman statue.

Photo: Andrea Popoca
Title: Soft Touch
Location: My house
This is from my balcony while it was raining. I like to play in the rain and feel it falling on my face. I also like to hear the sound of the rain falling on the ground. It doesn’t rain very often in LA. When it does, there’s a good amount of water for that day and then it’s gone. This photo reminds me of days when it rains softly, and I feel I see things more clearly. With this image, I hope to remind people of the beauty of water.

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