It was at a city council meeting that photographer Federico Medina found out about SanTana’s annual Artist Grant. Under the alias of StoopDown, the native son had already documented the Civic Center’s homeless population. Wanting to bring an awareness to the situation, he decided do a social documentary on all of the city. And last May, Medina was selected for a grant.
“Each resident of Santa Ana experiences the city in his or her own unique and personal way,” says Medina. “‘Life and Culture in the Golden City’ is my interpretation of Santa Ana through my lens.”
The project is an evocation of his relationship with the city, candidly exposing its cultural identity, it explores the overlap between old and new, everyday life, documenting and preserving the city’s history and what shapes SanTana. A year later, he’s amassed a collection of photographs representing SanTana’s cultural landscape separated by themes: religion, community, culinary, architecture, youth, seniors and street photography. “With this project I was forced to go out there and explore what really makes up this city,” he says.
It was only until recently (two years ago, to be exact) that Medina acquired his Canon 5D, initially purchased with the intention of making short films and shooting video. “I had no idea how to use it,” he recalls. Having gone to school for graphic design along with being in art direction, he had foundational knowledge and experience directing photo shoots. With the help of YouTube, he was able to pick it up fairly quickly. But if you looked at Medina’s work, you’d think he’d been shooting all his life.
“When I got the grant and started shooting, the scale of the whole project hit me and I thought to myself, ‘What did I just get myself into?’” he says. “I pushed myself and fell in love with the city every time I would come home with something.” Medina says everyone has been really supportive of the project, especially religious groups, with the mosque Masjid Al Hedayah saying what he’s doing is great because it opens them up to the community.
Medina welcomes residents and non-residents alike to explore the city at his exhibit at the Bowers Museum this Thursday and Friday. “It’s for the community, it’s for educational purposes, it’s for the people that are new to Santa Ana,” he says. “I want visitors from outside of the city to come and see what makes Santa Ana so special.” The gallery will also feature guest artist., Michael Ziobrowski, Valerie Inez Rodriguez and Fernando Olivares, who’ll reinterpret the photography of Medina in their medium. The exhibit is free to the public, for more information click here. See you there!
“Life and Culture in the Golden City,” at the Bowers Museum, 2002 N. Main St., SanTana, (714) 567-3600; www.bowers.org.