Photo exhibit at Eagle Rock Branch Library puts the focus on traveling through L.A. without a car

This is one of 50 photos taken by Edward E. Solis while he was riding on public transportation that will be on display at the Eagle Rock Branch Library.

This is one of 50 photos taken by Edward E. Solis while he was riding on public transportation that will be on display at the Eagle Rock Branch Library.

(Courtesy of Edward E. Solis)

Imagine seeing Los Angeles without driving a car. This is the premise of a new photography exhibit at Los Angeles Public Library’s Eagle Rock branch.

The display, which will debut at 5 p.m. on Thursday with an opening reception and runs through Dec. 31, features photographs by Edward E. Solis, an ex-suburban skateboarder whose life and work parallels the push against driving a car.

Solis, 41, said in an interview at the library that he plans to introduce up to 50 photos he’s taken while riding on public transportation.

“From geography, mileage and money spent, it’s a show about going car-free in a car culture,” he said, referencing the project’s title, “Car-Free in a Car Culture.” Solis said that he seeks to stress the experience of seeing L.A. through a ride on city, county and federal government-funded buses and railcars.

Describing his images as “mass transit fine art photography,” Solis — who used film, digital and smartphone cameras — said that he became passionate about sharing what it’s like to be in transit without being stuck in traffic or spending money getting gas, while being “green” at the same time.

While he said that he does own and drive a car, and Solis admits to various downsides of public transportation — confrontational riders and poor audio quality on loudspeaker announcements — he insists that going car-free “is for me,” as he puts it.

Solis traces his interest in riding mass transit to his suburban childhood, which also sparked the downtown L.A. resident’s other form of car-free mobility: skateboarding.

The self-taught photographer said that growing up in remote Whittier pushed him into using public buses.

“It’s flat there,” he said. “There were no freeways. I went skateboarding before there were skate parks, so we would take the bus to downtown L.A. to go street skating. We would end up in Long Beach and Lakewood and South Central L.A. That was my first experience in public transportation.”

When he started working at a rap label in Los Angeles, Solis said that he was prepared to not drive a car. “I didn’t get depressed about having to take mass transit for two and a half hours. I’d always bought used cars and, when they would break down, I thought, why spend $800 to fix it?”

Eagle Rock’s head librarian Sonja Hannah, who approved showing Solis’ exhibit, said that she, too, experienced Los Angeles as a young adult through riding a bus.

“I didn’t get my driver’s license until I was 21,” she said. “I took a bus from Pacoima to Westwood when I was going for my master’s degree at UCLA.”

When Solis approached Hannah about a display to educate patrons about a car-free life, she said she thought of young people who don’t quite cope if a car breaks down.

“Our mission is to enrich people’s lives, so this correlates by encouraging people to think about the community and its possibilities,” she said, adding that the Sept. 1 event will include a slide show, mix-and-mingle, tour and, of course, books related to the exhibit.

Hannah said that the library may also invite patrons to take and bring their own photos on any subject — which may be featured in a future exhibit.

Solis welcomes the idea.

“This is for everybody to enjoy,” he said. “All we’re trying to do is inspire people. You’ll get an idea of what it’s like to go from the beginning of the Gold Line at the 60 Freeway to downtown and Union Station, then get on the Red Line to Pershing Square and take the 81 [bus] up to Eagle Rock and Colorado and then walk. I did get off the bus and walk a few blocks just to get a pedestrian perspective — and got back on the bus. The trip took two hours. You can have so much fun.”

The Eagle Rock Branch Library is located at 5027 Caspar Ave.

Holleran is a contributor to Times Community News.