Chicano Park is a great location to see and photograph street murals in San Diego. It’s one of those rare photography spots in San Diego that has some interesting and rich historical significance.
If you like shooting murals and street art – this might be a great spot for you.
History of Chicano Park
The history of Chicano Park is really important to the Latino community in San Diego. For decades, the community in Barrio Logan – a solidly blue class immigrant part of town – had been asking the city for a park in town.
The city kept putting in scrap yards and other businesses that hurt the neighborhood, despite community requests to help develop the neighborhood. Even the interstate 5 was planned right through the middle of Barrio Logan, forcing a lot of long term residents to move.
When the city planned the Coronado bridge, it was another huge betrayal of the community. Putting an asphalt bridge and pylons right into their neighborhood was another blow after the I-5.
Women and children made human chains around the bulldozers, planting nopales, flowers and other plants in Chicano Park.
Finally, the neighborhood gathered together, women, men and students to protest the construction of a parking lot below the bridge. They wanted a park and were understandably tired of being jerked around by the city.
Women and children made human chains around the bulldozers, planting nopales, flowers and other plants in Chicano Park. The police had never dealt with such an unprecedented uprising from the neighborhood.
For 12 days, the Latino community occupied the area and worked together on clearing the land and planting. They had support from people across the state, as well as muralists who came out to add their art to support the cause.
The Nitty Gritty
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Murals in San Diego
Of course, the murals are the first thing to catch your eye at Chicano Park.
They are richly colored and the style is just an amazing testament to the artists who use the structure of the bridge as part of the art. Look at this guy, the Colossus, straining to hold up the structure.
This work was created by Mario Torero, Mano Lima and Laurie Manzano. Mario was one of the early founders of Chicano park and the cultural movement. His murals are well known in the artist community and definitely worth seeking out at Chicano Park.
The color, style and details vary with each artist and they do change from time to time. So even if you’ve gone once, you might see new things if you go again.
It was sunny on my shoot and that added to the challenge of dealing with the bright sun and shadow. Ideally, you’d want a cloudy day but we all know how common those are in San Diego.
Try not to blow out your highlights. If you can shoot raw, you might be able to recover enough color and detail in both your shadow and highlight areas.
Another useful tip is to use the perspective tools on your favorite editor to correct any perspective distortion you might end up with.
I kind of wish they had a walking tour pamphlet that told me a little more about the works – at least the ones that have been there a while.
I did find this website that details some of the more important murals, with information on the artist and the work of art.
But it’s also fun to just wander around and find the ones that catch your eye. It’s one of the best collections of murals in San Diego all in one spot.
Watch how the lines of the structure intersect with the frame of your image as well, as that can have an effect on your final composition.
Statues and Sculptures
There are also a number of statues and sculptures in the park that you can shoot, like this one of Emiliano Zapata.
Events and Local Life
There are several events during the year that might be great to go shoot. I would love to catch something like this Aztec dance performance!
If not, there’s still the usual people watching that can yield some good shots. I photographed some kids playing in a fountain, as well as some skateboarders.
If you want to see street art in San Diego, this is a great place to go. I can’t quite do the art justice as I think it’s better seen in person, rather than just a photo of the work.
I prefer to capture scenes of life in action, with the art as a backdrop. But I do think it’s a real unique side to the history and culture of San Diego that a lot of tourists miss out on.
Looking for more great locations to shoot? Check out this detailed list of the best photo spots in San Diego.
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