Photographing the Youth of Townsend




The Power of Stories is an archive of projects submitted every year to Building Healthy Communities (BHC) Statewide Convening. It showcases work created throughout California highlighting the power of individual and collective efforts to promote health and demonstrates how stories have the power to re-imagine and transform our communities. Produced in partnership with the California Endowment.

Project submitted by: Omar De La Riva

Project summary: Black and white images show the faces of youth in Santa Ana.

BHC site: Santa Ana


I have been a photographer for the past 10 years. I am always interested in the culture of people that I shoot. Whether it be people a thousand miles away or right down the street, I am fascinated by the way people chose to live their lives and the conditions that bring them to those decisions.

I have always been interested in the neighborhood of Townsend (located in Central Santa Ana) and been aware of its history of gangs, drugs, police oppression and difficult living arrangements. The community is one of the most marginalized at all levels of the policy making process. Despite all of this, I see the youth that live and play here, as being extremely strong and resilient.


I believe my work illuminates the power and hope that all youth have. Whether they live in a privileged part of the country, or if they live in one of the most difficult places to grow up. I believe that youth have a powerful optimism and hope. The faces I photographed represent that passion to make Santa Ana a better place. I believe that shining a light on the beauty and soul of the children of these communities will be uplifting, not only those who see them, but to the subjects as well.


It was surprising how open people are to being photographed in these neighborhoods. I had the impression that people and youth wanted to be SEEN and HEARD and the lens of my camera provided that outlet.

I am currently a community organizer here in Santa Ana. I work on land use and healthy eating issues with youth and residents. I want to continue living in Santa Ana and invest my time to make sure that it is a healthy place to live.



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