'street smart'

This is an ongoing project documenting the unsung heroes of the Southern California suburban streets. At-risk youth from over-tried families are hardened by their struggles on a daily basis, and still manage to keep their innocence. Gang violence, divided families, sickness and death, are all part of their normalcy. Despite their troubles, there is a majestic, towering beauty to them. A resilience is easily read on their faces, and their eyes still sparkle afloat.

Julian and Aidan are standing like all the roads can start from there. Like that freeway sign.

And those two birds are their souls escaping away.

Julian, at times, seems not to care. He almost floats on a slim, waiting to grow stronger, bolder, like the graffiti on this divider.

Miranda was hurt by a very bad person who crossed into her personal space. She now has a barrier in front of her.

Leo is on the middle ground. That divider seems to separate sadness from happiness, and I feel that Leo could slip towards the sadness side at any moment. He has not been able to be serious for my photos. For now he is holding still.

Aidan has two sides of him. His dad left him, his mother lost her custody of him, and at times he seems to jump between two worlds to find himself. He loves both his parents. He also loves his grandma who now takes care of him.

Leo is always happy, always clean. His playground has a graffiti tree, old tires and left over trash. They can’t take his sparkle away.

This photo was taken about 6 months after Markie’s father was killed in a gang-related shooting. Markie’s dog stays with him for the most part, but sometimes he runs away. Markie tells people that sometimes he would like to run away as well.

Apples is a future grower. She wants to make things right, to keep them healthy and clean so they can get bigger.

Yvonne is blowing a bubble gum. Pregnancy is something she is not thinking about.

These are the mothers. Some of them need an umbrella for protection.

They are looking into their future. The younger ones are scared, the older ones are hopeful. Maybe the younger ones know as well there is no better until grown away and on their own.

Purchase prints (50% of proceedings will contribute to an educational fund to support the at-risk youth depicted in this series.)

Using Format