Kristin Bedford documents the split tradition of Los Angeles’ lowrider car culture

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The LA-based photographer bears witness to the glitz and glamour of Mexican American lowrider culture, as well as its intimacy, communality, and history

“Lowriding can be who I am… Much more me whole, ” says Tina Martinez Perez, certainly one of Los Angeles’ lowriders, in Kristen Bedford’s new book, Cruise Night , published by Damiani.  

Made over five years, Bedford’s photobook captures the particular vibrant lives of LA’s lowriders – a Mexican American neighborhood who have been cruising down Ca boulevards for decades. Cruise Night time records the wealth of lowrider self-expression –  “transforming a car is integral to being seen and noticed, ” she explains. Outside of glistening paint jobs plus tactile car interiors, we see lowriders in complex makeup, ornate suits, or even revealing their bare boxes, painted with car tattoos.  

Bedford’s images were made as a result of intimate associations with her subjects, captured using a fixed camera lens. “If you see a photograph in the car, it exists due to the fact I was invited to be there, ” the LA-based professional photographer explains. Through this immersive process, Bedford grew to understand how lowriding “is passed down between generations…is part of each rite of passage… is in [lowriders’] bloodstream. ”

This truth is apparent in the photographs, which are because colourful and explosive because they are subtle and reverent. Lowriding’s layered tradition is reflected in every aspect of the book: its elegant modernist typeface, the metallic foil on the cover – like a car reflecting light – and the book’s featured text, quotes from “old timers. ”

Bedford explains just how as a woman photographer the girl was able to connect the women of the lowrider community, and “offer a new story. ” In one striking image, a woman sitting in the back of a car feels the particular wind in her curly hair, her eyelids carefully constructed and her chest inked with the slogan, ‘No Soy De Ti’ or, ‘I don’t belong to you. ’ “I realised that like the visual narrative of  automotive culture of all types, that of lowriding and has been entirely shaped by men, ” Bedford explains.

Bedford hopes to dispel the practice of lowriding to be considered as a “subculture, ” a term which diminishes the size and history of the tradition. “How many people have to do some thing until you consider it culture? ” Bedford asks. “If this was a predominantly white motion, I think it would be considered American culture. ” 

From the collection Cruise Night © Kristin Bedford.

From the series Sail Night © Kristin Bedford.

Nurit Chinn

Nurit Chinn is a playwright and freelance journalist. A recent graduate of Yale University with a degree in English Literature, Nurit has published work in Wallpaper* Magazine, Off Project, and the Yale Daily News.

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