The Faces of Venice Beach

I’m sure you have seen Venice Beach on TV or in movies.  I finally got to see it in person or at least part of it.  I ran out of time on day 1 to see Muscle Beach or the Canals.

Venice Beach – Sculpture

It definitely has its attractions and disappointments – what falls into each category probably depends upon your frame of mind.  To a photographer there are plenty of subjects begging to be photographed.  Or more accurately, begging and hoping you will pay to photograph them.  To the Christian photographer, my heart sees a lot of broken lives hurting – begging for healing on both a spiritual and physical level.

World’s Greatest Wino

One of my disappointments was paying the $15.00 parking in a crowded lot and being blocked in when I needed to leave.  I’m sure I could have done better if  had more time to look around, knew where I wanted to go and walked farther.

What are the faces?

A painted face of a vendor selling painted faces.

First there is the normal. There are a lot of people there just for the fun and entertainment.  Old and young from around the world taking it all in.  I heard a lot of languages I did not immediately recognize from our own California population.  I’m sure some conservative mid-westerners were shocked while the younger set were amazed or titillated.  There is a lot of street entertainment and vendors, places to eat (many mere holes in the wall – but nice).  Most eateries were inexpensive ($1.99 pizza, $1.00 bottled water or sodas).

Some of the entertainers were quite good and others talentless beggars pimping themselves for a buck for their next fix.  Not sure the “normal” visitors were going to buy much from the vendors although I did see some toe rings and hair decorations being bought.  Too many vendors selling henna tattoos and body piercings – something the kids come to get and the parents dread.  A few good crafts and a lot of painters in the drug themed, grungy, Bob Marley style.

Grungy Art – Bob Marley themed

Reminiscent of the late 60’s and early 70’s which seems to be the era Venice Beach is stuck in and probably what makes it attractive in a weird sort of way.

Second is the Action Set.   Most prominent are the skaters and what I think makes Venice Beach most memorable in the movies. Skateboards and in-line skates are most prominent.  The skate park was amazing. I’ll do a whole separate post on this.  Then bicycles galore.

These looked like fun to ride

It looked like fun to rent a bicycle and go for a ride along the paved paths with normal looking 2 wheeled bikes and some very interesting 3 wheeled versions.

Love on 2 wheels

Add basketball courts and beach volleyball.  Somewhere the opposite direction (I assume) was Muscle Beach and the body building.

Third is the weird and hurting.  I don’t know if some of these people consider themselves hurting but I am sure drugs play a large, controlling part in their lives.  Each entrance from the streets onto the Venice Beach promenade has characters in various attention getting forms of dress looking for “donations to their art form” (ie. begging in a more entertaining way).

I’m not sure Elvis ever did this form of begging.

Rollerblading guitar player looking for donations. Bags hold speakers, amplifier and batteries as sound system for his guitar.

I worry about some of the more fully painted bodies and what damage is being done to them.

Fully Painted man looking for donations. Thankfully the dog was fake.

I did not photograph the bench of young men holding the sign saying they are collection donations for their drugs.  This was right across the walk from the Medical marijuana dispensary.  It would appear local law enforcement takes a blind eye to the drug problem.

Drug solicitation was rather blatant.

Doctor is in. List of excuses for a prescription pretty long.

And being a mild, comfortable climate means a lot of street people sleeping beneath the palms, begging or looking through the trash.

Street Person

But you see them in most major cities and beach areas – although the local establishment looks to be a little less reluctant to run them away from this area.

The saddest thing I saw came when a very pretty young lady went running through the crowds, singing (or was it screaming?), arms outstretched with sleeve fabric flying in the wind .  She was probably late teens or early 20’s.  Couldn’t tell if she was just having fun or what until she ran face first into a palm tree and dropped unconscious to the grass.  Couldn’t tell if she was unconscious from the tree or the drugs.  Paramedics were looking after her when I left.  No photos taken here either – couldn’t – I guess I’m not much into journalism unless it is happier circumstances.

On a brighter note: There was a group of entertainers drawing a large crowd with their performances.

Street Performers – Break Dancing

Break dancing, jiving with the crowd, acrobatic stunts, rap music.  Quite good and entertaining.  I’ll post more of them later.  But they had a strong message to the kids to stay away from drugs.  Money willingly went into their collection buckets.

More photos here: Faces of Venice Beach

More to come…

About Ron Ludekens

God created a marvelous world full of wonderful sights and people. He is the Creator and it is His Palette of beauty that Ron Ludekens tries to capture as photographic images. Images of nature or images of people and their lives - both reflect the handiwork of the Creator. Ron is a photographer living in Visalia, California - part of the great Central Valley. He is immediately surrounded by agriculture and all the hard working people that feed our world. A short distance away are the grand Sierra Nevada mountains, impressive National Parks and, wider still, the vast diversity that California has to offer. Ron is one of the family owners of the L.E. Cooke Co Wholesale Nursery - a leader in the horticulture industry of North America. Even on the job, his camera is always near by. His photos for the nursery trade have been published in print and around the websites of nurseries across America. Ron is also a leader in his church and its missions. Ron's photography has been a resource the church uses in its communications and message. Plus photos of all the fun things we do are shared among members and friends. Ron also loves capturing precious moments in lives of people. Weddings, senior portraits, graduations, family gatherings, maternity and special events. Ron will not shoot more than four weddings a year to provide the attention to detail and followup that is required for such an important milestone event in the lives of the couple. Ron can be reached at 559-732-7165 or cell 559-967-5370.
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