Inside the incredible East Los Angeles lowrider scene
Photographer Kristin Bedford spent five years capturing the essence of East LA’s lowrider scene. The results are astounding.
The lowrider scene has been an integral part of the Mexican American community since the first customised Chevy Impala bounced its way up Whittier Boulevard in the 1940s.
You can’t call it a subculture. It’s too big and too important for that. Lowriding is in the DNA of the Mexican American community and remains an important way of expressing identity, culture and solidarity.
When unrest threatened local businesses during the recent George Floyd protests, the lowriders were on hand to provide protection.
Photographer Kristin Bedford spent five in the community, documenting their lifestyle.
She shared traditions and attended hundreds of lowrider cruise nights, car shows, quinceañeras, weddings and funerals.
She has just released a book of intimate and unstaged photos from her time in the lowrider community called Cruise Nights.
The book is unique in that it looks at the scene from a female perspective. Lowriding is often portrayed as an overtly macho scene, but Kristin discovered lowrider matriarchs and young women who are participants in the scene, not accessories.
For visitors to LA, the lowrider scene may seem forbidding, even intimidating. But Kristin says that the lowrider community is extremely kind, generous and welcoming and very keen to show off their pride and joys.
But whether you’re watching the lowriders cruise down Whittier Boulevard on Saturday night or attending one of the other meets across the city in Hawaiian Gardens, City of Industry and Elysian Park, Kristin has one pertinent piece of advice.
‘Whatever you do, don’t touch the cars!’ she says. ‘Lowrider cars are works of art. Unless the owner gives you express permission, just look!’
“Each of these exquisite photos is a visual poem of color, form and harmony … they give intimate access to a world you could never otherwise have known and will now never be able to forget.”Bruce Jackson, Professor of American Culture, SUNY Buffalo, New York
Main image: No Soy De Ti (I Don’t Belong To You) – Vintage Ladies Car Club Whittier, CA. (© Kristin Bedford)