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Boyle Heights

Nature Double Exposed: Bringing San Gabriel Mountains to Eastside Youth

8:35 AM PDT on March 13, 2013

Double exposed photo of the First Street Bridge and brush at the San Gabriel Valley Mountains taken by 16-year-old Raquel. Courtesy of Las Fotos Project
By Raquel, 16-year-old participant of Las Fotos Project

When the young women of Las Fotos Project were asked where the San Gabriel Mountains were, only 1 of 9 raised their hand. So when asked to take photos of the mountains and create a double exposure image--where film is exposed twice to create a multilayered image-- "Nature: Double Exposed" would create a lot of "firsts" for the teenage participants.

"Nature: Double Exposed; Boyle Heights Meets The San Gabriel Mountains," a project between Girls Today Women Tomorrow, San Gabriel Mountains Forever, and Las Fotos Project,  was created into a book last year, showcasing the double-exposed photos of nature and images from the girls lives. Accompanied by poetry, the girls relate their lives to nature by reflecting on their family members, and the neighborhood they live in.

The 10 girls involved with Las Fotos Project grew up on the Eastside, which has a limited amount of nature nearby. In Boyle Heights alone, there is only 0.72 acres of park per 1,000 residents.

Lizbeth Rojas developed Nature: Double Exposed as a part of the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Leadership Academy, which give youth leadership roles to bring awareness to the San Gabriel Mountains. Partnering with Las Fotos Project, a photography program that reaches out to students ages 11-17 from low income latino communities, Lizbeth created a program that would expose teenage girls to the mountains and help them tell a story through photography.

The double exposed photos of nature overlapped with teens common views of their lives. Many photos were of family members, some of homes, and even of their neighborhood. An image of one of the photographers brothers double exposed on yellow flowers look like he's laying on top of the foliage.

"The meaning of community was different for them," said Eric Ibarra, founder of Las Fotos Project.

The girls built various skills throughout the project. Rojas, at 17, was the project lead for the book. She, with some guidance from Ibarra, sought financing for the book, gave presentations about the mountains to the girls  and help the girls learn to take photos.

Many of the girls had never taken photos on an analog camera, or produced prints. When the girls saw their prints, Ibarra said, it's when they were most excited. "They didn't know what they made," Ibarra said.

Rojas, who now studies Engineering at Loyal Marymount University,  said that her images represented the importance of her family and community, but also the importance for nature to be in people's lives.

"I guess after seeing how bad the mountains were, and seeing how bad my community was,  . .  . if I was still (living at home) I would like to do something about it," said Rojas.

Las Fotos Project is looking for volunteers to mentor it's youth photographers. Go to Las Fotos Project's website for more details, or email To purchase "Nature: Double Exposed," click here. Funds raised from book sales will help sustain the program, and allow copies of the book to be given to its participants.  

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