This exhibition follows the photographic narratives of seven Las Fotos Project students illustrating the wide variety of mobility issues facing them and their neighbors in East Los Angeles. 

Through this course, the students learned the foundations of mobility justice and traffic safety. They carried out individual walk audits of their neighborhoods, developed a visual record of their relationship with both public spaces and active transportation (biking, walking, scooting, skating), and envisioned the types of interventions that would secure mobility justice for their communities.

Continue scrolling down to see the full exhibition. Click on the images to enlarge and read full captions.

Where do you travel day-to-day, and what is your preferred mode of transportation?
When you’re in public spaces, where do you feel the most, or least safe? 

Stephanie Gutierrez, 16, Los Angeles

Transportation is something we all do whether it be a car, train, bus, bike, skateboard, etc we all share the road. However prior to this class I never thought about how dangerous a simple sidewalk could be. How low income neighborhoods road’s are underfunded. So while going out I payed more attention to my communities road, and drivers. I realized there where so many safety hazards, many roads uneven. The majority of the picture I took were taken while biking, so I came at this project from the perspective of a biker. I hope my pictures give you at least a little insight on what is dangerous and hopefully can be fixed. Thank you.

These questions give light to the concept of mobility justice, which is rooted in liberating historically marginalized communities from violence, fear, insecurity and inaccessibility to safety in the streets. 

Rocío Hernandez, 17
Los Angeles

This class helped me be more conscious of what has been taken away from my community for profit. I learned that bike lanes cannot protect you or me from a cop that feels he is above the law. Mobility justice means our senior residents do not get stuck in between the doors of trains. Mobility justice meaning all the body’s needs are met and not just ignored or barely met with a band-aid solution. We are so used to our living conditions that we are impressed when we go somewhere where the grass is greener and the streets are cleaner. But I learned we are all worthy of that. Safe bike lanes that will force a car to stay in their lane, more trees, no cracked trees, and nice sidewalks.

What I learned is something I wished was taught in school because we are forced to believe there is no room for change and the only way to survive is to escape. But what if we created a city we did not want to run away from anymore. This is what I want our schools to teach, the privilege of transportation, the menace it is to our health and our earth. The ways we can put pressure to create a change.

Imagine everyone being able to move around freely and safely in the streets. What does that look like or what needs to be different? What would mobility justice mean to your community?

Valeria Hernandez, 17, Los Angeles

Mobility justice needs more awareness throughout communities that do not have accessibility to the same resources and safe streets. Equity throughout communities, especially communities of color, must be reached in order for everyone to have the same opportunities to succeed, and create a safe space for movement and prosperity. For my Safe Street, I chose Glendale Boulevard. Glendale Boulevard is filled with shops, restaurants, and has numerous bus stops. As many cars travel along it, there are also many people walking and waiting for the bus. I have come to see shade as a privilege. Those waiting for the bus should not to under the hot, burning sun. Shade is needed on Glendale Boulevard.

Communities of color in Los Angeles are some of the most burdened by traffic deaths, poor air quality, and unreliable transit. All these inequities can be tied back to LA’s car-centric culture and historic racial segregation.

Pilli Jaquez, 18, Los Angeles

I never really thought about mobility justice in such depth before this class, this is most likely because I didn’t need to. Getting around wasn’t and isn’t something I necessarily needed to worry about because it is usually relatively easy for me to get to where I want/ need to get to. With that being said achieving mobility justice would mean that everyone can move freely and safely without putting much thought into it. Going from place to place would no longer feel like an obstacle or challenge for people who are differently-abled or who rely heavily on public transit or for people who are from marginalized groups if mobility justice were achieved. Everyone would feel safe while traveling whether that be on foot, on a bike, or a city bus. What surprised me most while documenting mobility injustices in my neighborhood was just how unequal and unsafe my streets were. From cracked sidewalks to broken crosswalks to unequal access to transportation resources the list seems to go on and on. I wasn’t surprised about the number of issues I noted in my community, but rather the fact that I had never noticed them before. I have lived in the same house and neighborhood all my life, how could I have never noticed that anything was wrong? I think it’s because we tend to normalize what is wrong in our neighborhoods instead of trying to address and fix these issues.

As someone who is able-bodied, I can’t think of a time when I genuinely struggled to go from one place to another, I can not recall a single time when moving was a struggle or something that felt difficult. Because of this in my work, I chose to highlight the privileges and disadvantages that unsafe streets bring to my neighborhood. Through this perspective I was able to reflect and understand why achieving mobility justice is so important. I’m hoping when people see my work they will also reflect on their privilege and attempt to further their understanding about mobility justice. I want my work to show people that even when you think an issue does not directly impact you, it does, you just might need a little guidance to see the bigger picture. I want people to understand that streets are not safe for anyone until they are safe for everyone because the marginalization of any group of people hinders the progress of all people everywhere.

Mobility justice demands that we recognize and reconcile these injustices in our communities, and ensure that even the most vulnerable can travel safely and efficiently. 

The Untokening Collective’s “Untokening 1.0”
explains the Principles of Mobility Justice as:

  • Safety beyond protection from cars
  • Centering people over profit
  • Eradicating physical barriers
  • Responding to local needs
  • Valuing community voices
  • Rejecting traditional policing
  • Addressing environmental racism

Haley Santibanez, 16, Los Angeles

What mobility justice means to me is the right for communities to express their needs for change in their environment and demand safety What true mobility justice would look like for my community is safer streets for people of any kind to walk safely in. I have focused on many different mobility needs for my community/neighborhood, one of them being transit/or bus and how many people rely on it for their livelihood. Another being bikers and bike lanes,I chose to highlight this because bikers have been harmed from cars for so long and nothing has been done about it. The things I learned about in class that surprised me was that our communities and neighborhoods functions the way it is because of white supremacist policies that were intentionally put into place to affect people of color and lower income communities. What also angered me was that segregation and gentrification benefit those who are privileged and Prioritize profit over people. what I hope people will take away from my work is that they have the right to speak up for what they see in their community and they have the ability to change or add what they think can improve their neighborhood so that it can be safe for everyone.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the decline in traffic are opportunities for us to rethink how public spaces might better serve people, not cars.

The Movement for Black Lives urgently questions if more rules and regulations in the streets could mean more law enforcement – and possibly more unjust harassment and death – for black and brown people.

Annie Son, 17, Los Angeles

Despite that I’d spent every summer in Ilsan with my grandparents, I’d failed to notice the disparity in Ilsan — a small town in Gyeonggi-do, about an hour away from the capital of South Korea. I was aware of the effects of redlining and gentrification in the U.S., but I had never noticed how the neighborhood I practically grew up in was a prime example of a prominent social issue. It was shocking, and even shameful that I hadn’t cared to examine the problems here in my grandparents’ neighborhood that I cherish and frequent. While working on this project, I observed how mobility justice — or rather, mobility injustice — prevented people like my grandfather, who has to walk with a cane and cannot see well, from transporting freely. I began appreciating the sole ability to cross the street without a worry, but I also grew more frustrated as I realized how many of these mobility barriers could easily be fixed with things like tactile pavings, a fresh layer of paint, or stop signs. This especially applies to my Safe Street, which is two blocks away from the “Gu” Ilsan exit of Ilsan Station. It is where two streets meet to become a four-way crosswalk, while simultaneously, they remain streets for cars. Due to the construction site next to my Safe Street, it is hard for cars to see pedestrians crossing from the left side, and vice versa. No order exists on my Safe Street, where the pedestrian or driver with the most gut to cross has the right to go first. Documenting the issue then became necessary; we needed to spread awareness, and request for change. We needed to raise our voices for stop signs, which would fix many issues of pedestrians and cars running into each other, and for bright reflectors to be installed on the road so that cars don’t accidentally hit pedestrians when they cross. Raising our voices is the first step toward achieving mobility justice, and an equitable neighborhood, safe for all.

Mobility justice offers a vision for bodies of all abilities to fully experience their communities fearlessly and with joy. We all have a right to move safely in streets and public spaces regardless of where we are, when we are traveling, and what our identities are.

Anna Vasquez, 17
Los Angeles

When I think of mobility justice I think of having social justice for the community and making sure the streets are safe as well as making it look welcoming for others. With the pictures I chose I wanted to show the way some cities are finally getting their streets fixed. Also the ways we are adjusting with our new normal. I hope people look at my work and see what’s happening in communities and how we need to come together and stop making it normal to see a car crash happen every year on the same street.

Featured Photographers

My name is Stephanie Gutierrez. I’m a sixteen year old girl born and raised in East LA. Photography for me has always been a way to express myself. Show people my surroundings. There is so much beauty in everything we see, things we take for granted. It could be simple things like a tree or a moment. The point being is I love to document those things and keep them forever. I love to show other people what I capture and my perspective on my community/surroundings. Thank you for reading!

My name is Rocío Hernández, I am a 17-year-old Salvadoreña. I am an AP Student-Athlete currently attending Felícitas and Gonzalo Mendez High school. I enjoy soccer because it keeps me active; helping me release endorphins and getting the dopamine. I have been doing cross country for 2 years for my school and I just really enjoy the places I get to because I ran there. I plan to go to a four-year university and major in health. One word to describe me according to my friends is friendly. I feel like I like making people laugh or at least feel less alone by presenting myself as someone they can laugh and at the same time have deep conversations with. Las Fotos has helped me develop my social skills because it’s taught me to be aware of the community around me. The mentors and students are all so different from each other yet we are connected by our love for photography. That’s the beauty of Las Fotos: we come in as strangers trying to learn skills for our photography and through the semesters we end up with other humans that feel like family.

My name is Valeria Hernandez. Through my teenage years, I have been able to explore different artistic forms and have found a passion of mine through photography. Photography makes me feel like I can express the beauty in moments around me, document moments I want to keep alive, and bring awareness on issues that are important to me. An equal passion of mine is helping people and being active in current day issues. In my future, I hope to continue helping people and bringing awareness to injustices through a career of photojournalism. I also hope to travel to El Salvador, and create my own photo project about the country my parents are from to connect myself more with my culture.

My name is Pilli Jaquez and I’m 18 years old. I am a current freshman at Occidental College where I’m studying Critical Theory & Social Justice. I have been involved with Las Fotos Project for about a year and a half and have learned so much in this small amount of time. I enjoy photography because it allows me to capture memories and moments that I might forget in the future. Portraiture is my favorite form of photography because I think there is a lot of power in capturing people’s emotions and feelings. This class has really forced me to get out of my comfort zone because since we are living through a pandemic taking photos of others isn’t really an option. While documenting my streets I had to get creative and figure out how to capture emotion in my images despite rarely having people in them. Through this class I have become more aware of the mobility injustices my community face. Through photography I have learned to be more imaginative and use my surroundings to create art. I feel that this has been especially true while taking this class because my only subjects were the structures around me.

My name is Haley Santebanez. My hometown is Downtown, Los Angeles. I am 16 years old and I’m in the 10th grade at a school called Marc and Eva math and science school. What I like about being a photographer/ artist is that I can capture moments in life that have a significant meaning , and then presenting them into the world so that others can see the uniqueness of it. I make art for many reasons, one of them is that it’s a stress reliever for me. Being able to cancel everything around me and just focusing on taking pictures helps me forget about all my problems. Another reason why I make art is that it’s one of the ways I demonstrate my activism. By taking pictures to bring awareness and informing people about real world situations that they might not have a complete understanding of what is happening. The people that inspire me are my colleagues and the mentors at las fotos fotos. They are very creative people that push me to be better and seeing their work only inspires me to ameliorate my photographs.

A student at North Hollywood High School and a Los Angeles local, Annie Son captures mundane human experiences through her camera lens, bringing life to a moment in time that would otherwise fade away, unbeknown. The 17-year-old photographer draws inspiration from minute occurrences—like untied shoelaces, linked arms, or a fallen can of paint resting beside a tree—hoping to tell stories and immortalize the history of life forms.

My name is Anna Vasquez, I am a 15-year-old photographer based in Los Angeles, raised in Baldwin Park, California. I am a Junior at Sierra Vista High School. I started my pursuit of photography 3 years ago by taking pictures of nature and her sister. I do portraiture/self-portraiture photography. I started to do photography as a way to express myself through personal style. I decided to take on this project because I care about other people’s safety especially in their own communities. I wanted to be able to make an impact through photography and still help out outside of this project. I have been featured in a few publications such as, “Origins” Las Fotos Project exhibit, Bright Lite Magazine, “Migrant Mama” wheat-pasting and mural, along with the “Migrant Mama” Virtual Reality Experience and “HER” mag with Girls Rock Santa Barbara.

Teaching Artist
Leah Hubbard

Leah Choi
Marlena Miller
Crystal Milner
Megan Pennings

Our Streets: Healing and Protecting our Community through Mobility Justice was made possible thanks to a grant by Southern California Association of Governments.