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Eye on Injustice


By Mary Daily

Published Oct 1, 2017 9:00 AM

Thousands of photographs from the Chicano Rights Movement in Los Angeles from 1967 to 1977 have been given to UCLA's Chicano Studies Research Center.

Student and barrio youth lead a protest march called "La Marcha por La Justicia" in Belvedere Park on January 31, 1971. Photos by Luis Garza.

Every story has at least two sides. Certainly that’s true of the Chicano Rights Movement that took place in Los Angeles between 1967 and 1977. While law enforcement’s view of the events was readily told through mass media, a group of Chicano photographers, several of whom were UCLA students — including Moctesuma Esparza ’71, M.F.A. ’73, Luis Garza and Devra Weber Ph.D. ’86 — documented the events from the Chicanos’ perspective. But for decades their work has been inaccessible to researchers.

Now those fearless photographers have given their 25,000 images to the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center to be digitized into an archive that scholars can examine to better understand the period. The works show photography as a powerful tool of social activism, presenting a visual argument for equal rights and an intimate portrait of the Mexican-American community. The images capture moments of mass demonstration, portraits of individuals and communities, and a watchful police state. The photographers’ work gave rise to an alternative press that spread nationwide.

Through a partnership between the center and the Autry Museum of the American West, 200 photographs from the collection are on view at the museum through February 10, 2019, in an exhibit called LA RAZA.

“These images are the result of one of the largest collective photography efforts ever undertaken in our country,” says Chon Noriega, the center’s director. “They give the perspective of a group of motivated, community-based journalists.”

Making the images available is a huge step in broadening the understanding of the contentious, sometimes violent, events, Noriega says. “The scene looks different depending on who was holding the camera.”

The center’s exhibition catalog features original scholarship, including essays by Ernesto Chavez ’85, M.A. ’88, Ph.D. ’94 and UCLA faculty member Maylei Blackwell, and edited by Colin Gunckel M.A. ’04, Ph.D. ’09.

LA RAZA is part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a far-reaching and ambitious exploration of Latin American and Latino art in dialogue with Los Angeles.