SSince the first lowriders left Los Angeles more than 70 years ago, custom ground-hugging cars have served as moving canvases for vibrant self-expression, Mexican-American pride, and cultural resistance.
The essence of that movement is captured by photographer Kristin Bedford in her new book, Cruise Night, a collection of 75 color photographs and interviews that she hopes will transfer readers to the passenger seats of lowriders, allowing them to feel nostalgic for a past era and glimpse the ways in which cars remain woven into the fabric of everyday life.
From 2014 to 2019, Bedford roamed the streets of Los Angeles County, still considered a lowriding mecca, documenting intimate moments and compiling oral histories with lowriders who have been on the scene since the 1950s.
“I was interested in showing how lowriders are an integral part of all aspects of life: funerals, weddings, quinceañeras and rites of passage. It is not something that is a hobby that is done on the weekend. It’s in their DNA, passed down from generation to generation, ”Bedford said.
Lowriders date back to the postwar Los Angeles years of the 1940s, when a booming Mexican-American population faced discrimination from white Angelenos, the strain that sparked the Zoot suit riots of 1943. In the years following, lowriders would associate with gangs and streets. crime, a perception that made them frequent targets of law enforcement. When the West Coast rap scene exploded in the 1990s, the image of the lowrider that had become the centerpiece of his music videos spread around the world.
But Cruise Night is more than a tribute to car culture, Bedford says. It’s also about women who have historically been overlooked in the movement or portrayed as sexual accessories by the men who dominated the industry.
“It is a mistake to think that it is a masculine world. Women are, and always have been, an integral and natural part of lowriding, customizing their own cars and creating their own car clubs, ”he said.
In one of Bedford’s favorite photos, the camera lets him see Mary as she flicks her windblown hair from her face in the back seat of her Chevy. Tattooed on his chest are the words “I am not yours“- I don’t belong to you.
“While lowriding is so deeply ingrained in community and family, it is also about fierce calls for respect and independence,” says Bedford.
And that photo has that balance of quiet introspection mixed with this call for respect. She is a woman who says: ‘I don’t belong to you’. You will have your own car and you will travel wherever you want. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism