Long after most students have gone home for the night, Edgar Cruz is hard at work in the art department darkroom, listening to good music and making even better prints.

Cruz is a fourth-year art and environmental studies major at UC Santa Cruz who specializes in film photography. He displayed his senior show “South Central Love” in the Eduardo Carrillo Gallery from Oct. 24- 30. 

“South Central Love” includes a variety of black and white film photos taken over the summer in Cruz’s neighborhood in Los Angeles, shot on a Mamiyaflex C2. The photos focus on shadows and architectural elements, finding beauty in things that wouldn’t necessarily catch the eye at first glance.

Although Cruz works with multiple mediums, his senior show highlights his preferred medium, film photography. Due to his interest in documentary photography, Edgar wanted his senior show to include all new work composed of photos that tell a story.

The show addresses misconceptions and generalizations about Cruz and his hometown neighborhood. Cruz describes his photos in “South Central Love” as primarily autobiographical, a statement about people making false assumptions about places, specifically low-income communities and communities of color in the U.S. 

Photo courtesy of Edgar Cruz, from ‘South Central Love’

“I always get upset about how you can just kind of generalize me or put me in a box based on where I’m from, because that’s not who I am. And so, I started thinking, I want to show people where I’m from, and bring to light how there’s this misconception. I’m not depicting people. There’s maybe one small, tiny figure in one of my photos, but I don’t like to have people in my photos. It’s very focused on what I see, I think that’s a huge part of it. A lot of my work with photography is my gaze, everyone has a gaze of what we’re paying attention to and what we’re not paying attention to. And that says a lot.”

– Cruz

The photos reflect his experience noticing the abundance of architectural elements within his neighborhood resembling jail and cell-like structures, such as bars, fences and windows.

Photo courtesy of Edgar Cruz, from ‘South Central Love’

Cruz’s self-portraits are an exploration into shadows, a theme in his work since he first started working in the darkroom. “South Central Love” features many self-portraits taken around his neighborhood that place Cruz indirectly in the photo — unseen but still present. Cruz describes his photography as location-oriented, investigating the idea of space and environment.

Photo courtesy of Edgar Cruz, from ‘South Central Love’

“Sometimes I’ll go around on the weekends, you know, on a Saturday, before it gets too late, I’ll take the bus downtown and just start walking around and take photos of things, and it’s interesting. […] The fact that I can put myself in the photo and have it be related to me and not just have it be me taking photos of Santa Cruz or a beach you know, putting yourself in the photo gives it meaning.”

– Cruz

As Cruz prepares to graduate at the end of this year, he talks about how much of an impact the art department and its unique, tight-knit community has had on him.

“[As an art major], you’re not majoring in something because your parents want you to or because you know you’ll have a job after college. You’re not guaranteed any of those things, if anything you’re setting yourself up for unemployment or you know, things not working out, but you’re still doing it, you’re signing yourself up for all of that, just to do what you love. And I really admire that with every one.”

– Cruz

“South Central Love” is a way of showing not only the work he has made, but what he has learned and how he has grown over the past four years.

Photo courtesy of Edgar Cruz, from ‘South Central Love’