Photo: More than 175 pictures cover the walls and windows of St. Vincent de Paul’s thrift store.
‘Inside Out/11M’ at St. Vincent de PaulOn this late Friday morning at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul’s expansive thrift store in Lincoln Heights, people inside are shopping for bargains on everything from dishes to men’s suits, computers to refrigerators, toys to TVs.
But the real action is happening outside in the front parking lot.
Some of the 300-plus customers are waiting in a snaking line leading to a gray RV to have their picture almost automatically taken and immediately developed in the mobile studio. Others are carrying rolled-up 35-by-53-inch prints of their headshots to workers on a metal scaffold, whose job is pasting up the enlarged portraits on a side wall of the 200-year-old Society’s office. More workers are also covering the adjacent store’s front windows with prints.
This beehive of activity has to do with a public project called “Inside Out/11M,” a nationwide participatory art tour that began last month in Northern California and will end in New York City Sept. 23-26. Its timely goal is to create a portrait of America, celebrating the nation’s rich heritage of immigrants. The hope includes not only to raise awareness but to advocate for reform.
Inside Out is the brainchild of “photograffeur” JR, who fly-posts blown-up black-and-white photos of human faces “to pay tribute to the power and dignity of individuals by displaying their portraits in public spaces around the world.” His work has been on walls in the Middle East, on the broken bridges of Africa and in the favelas or shanty towns of Brazil that Pope Francis just visited during World Youth Day.
“I think they picked us because the Society supports a very diverse community,” said David Fields, executive director of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, Council of Los Angeles. “Our membership is very, very diverse. And this community of Lincoln Heights is very diverse. Our customer base is very diverse. And we’re extremely fortunate to have this program here.”
He said the more than 175 portraits, which will remain up for about a week and then removed by power washing, dramatically show that prodigious diversity.
One photo is of an African American middle-aged man with a stone-serious expression across his handsome face. Another shows a first- or second-grade boy in a white T-shirt with his mouth wide open. The weather-beaten, wrinkled face of a Hispanic man staring intensely is counter-balanced by a nearby aging Latina with gray hair down to her waist and the hint of a smile.
“I think that immigration is a topic that is very relevant,” said Alejandra Moreno, who lives in the neighborhood and came to the innovative outdoor exhibit with her mother, Maria. “And as of now, it’s still a battle for America. But I feel that we all come from diverse backgrounds. And this project is a great way to speak out and make relevant that we’re here and we’re all from the same country.
“If you notice among the pictures, it’s different colors, ages, young and old,” the 22-year-old Moreno pointed out. “And they all stand to make a statement that we are together.”
Photo: Workers post photos at the Society.