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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 worry about some of the more fully painted bodies and what damage is being done to them.
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.
And being a mild, comfortable climate means a lot of street people sleeping beneath the palms, begging or looking through the trash.
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.
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…