Straight Outta Compton on the Blue Line





I shot these for work. Universal Pictures had invited community members from Compton to a downtown L.A. screening of "Straight Outta Compton" and the group traveled there on the Blue Line.

I did no preparation other than showing up. I didn't know what to expect. I thought there might be a good photo of someone looking out the window on one of the elevated sections of track and possibly a picture of someone waiting on the platform with the "Compton" sign in the background.

In the end, I winged it. The first shot was just something I snapped as the train approached -- hoping to get both the woman and the train in the frame. The woman had a bit of a world weary look on her face that I thought was interesting and perhaps said something about living in a community so closely associated with gansta rap and, of course, gang violence. 

The second shot I worked on. The four guys were sitting there and I realized sitting on the floor was the way to go and that the guy with the "save black boys" shirt needed to be the centerpiece and looking straight at me. I asked the guys to look at me and look serious.

I didn't expose either shot terribly well but I like the composition and shot them in RAW so I was able to make some necessary adjustments. 

The third shot was just a happy accident and is my favorite of the three. The train was stopped on the platform and I was standing in the doorway and spotted the guy on the bench. 

The Blue Line platforms are, at best, functional. This complemented the bleak scene in front of him -- some industry, a palm tree, some telephone poles and a neighborhood you can't see. I feel like it's a photo that hints at a story: the isolation of the low-income neighborhoods along the Blue Line and a guy waiting for a train and maybe waiting for something else in the same way these are neighborhoods waiting for a renewal that never quite comes. 

All three photos were shot in color, the last two with a Nikon manual focus 28mm 2.8 lens that I really like for street photography -- it's sharp but not too sharp and feels a little rawer than some of the higher quality modern lenses. I converted to black and white, which I thought added a little more drama, starkness and newsiness to them. My hunch is that there are a lot more good photographs and stories to tell in Compton -- and even with the movie coming out tomorrow, I don't think anyone is telling them. 

All my galleries are here. Questions about prints, licenses or hiring me to shoot something? Email me.

--S.H.


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