The complexities that lie in the city of Santa Ana presented themselves to me firsthand through my neighborhood: where gangs thrived and most importantly through the unique lessons and wisdom of my father, a gardener, and my mother, a housekeeper. 

Editor’s note: This is an occasional series where Voice of OC works with local community photographers to offer residents a first-hand look at the local sites and scenes of Orange County.

I almost didn’t make it out of my neighborhood, for drivebys were rampant, but I still prevailed. 

It is through the immigrant stories, and shared lived experiences of my parents and community that I decided to take up photographing Santa Ana. 

My name is Francisco Vera, and I am a photographer born and raised in Santa Ana. 

Photography is my passion. 

During the night, I work graveyard shifts that enable me to photograph during the day– this is intentional. 

It’s a sacrifice I am willing to make in order to dedicate my time to capturing life during the day. 

I photograph many walks of life, from the street vendor selling flowers on the side of the street to the young man who lost his life because of gang violence while his mother weeps at the memorial site days later. 

I always felt this city was diverse and it made me want to grab a camera and start photographing– imagining how eye-opening it would be if viewers could see through my perspective. 

Thinking back, I wish I had taken up photography sooner because there are so many things I’ve experienced that I could’ve shared with everyone. Stories lost to time that I had the chance to tell through photographs: The lost art, buildings, signs, and people that will never come back. 

Here’s what I’ve have captured so far: 

Silvia, a fruit and snack vendor in downtown Santa Ana, opens up shop despite the rainy morning on October 25th, 2021. Credit: FRANKIE VERA
Don Jesus Salazar, 71, who immigrated to the U.S. in the 70’s, shaves off the thorns of a nopal before selling them from his mobile troquita in a Santa Ana neighborhood on March 1, 2021. Salazar, who has had his troquita since 2008 sells food and home supplies to the neighborhood. Credit: FRANKIE VERA, Voice of OC
Reyna, a well known presence in Salvador Park, in the Artesia Pilar neighborhood, sells without fail every day of the week. Most of her clientele comes from the nearby elementary school or the public that visits the park parallel to her stand. April 28th, 2021. Credit: FRANKIE VERA
Ricardo, a devout Christian, preaches on the corner of Bristol and McFadden St. in Santa Ana on Easter Sunday. His Christian brothers behind him, Bernabéu (left) and Jorge (right), who take turns preaching to people passing by on April 17, 2022. Credit: FRANKIE VERA
A group of Aztec dancers dance in front of the Bristol Swap Mall during Dia de los Muertos celebrations. Credit: FRANK VERA
Neighborhood kids play with a makeshift swing made out of a pillow and rope they found on Dec. 23, 2020. Credit: FRANK VERA
A family takes an evening stroll down Bishop St. Credit: FRANK VERA
Martha, food vendor, makes homemade Salvadoran pupusas in Pico Lowell neighborhood on Sept. 4, 2021. Her young daughter (not pictured) who is in elementary school was helping her this day by taking orders, and handling the money with customers while Martha cooked. Many Santaneros set up shop during yard sale weekends which only happen 8 times a year. Credit: FRANK VERA
Two workers display their camaraderie after a long day of work. The worker on the right tries to send money back to Mexico when possible to his wife and daughter, but the struggle of getting steady work makes it difficult at times. September 23, 2020. Credit: FRANK VERA
Santa Ana police responding a police call on Bishop St. on Dec. 7, 2020. Credit: FRANK VERA
Bills Market in Santa Ana on Nov. 22, 2021. Credit: FRANK VERA
After school, two kids play handball against a cement wall in a local shopping mall in Santa Ana on Dec. 21, 2021. Credit: FRANK VERA

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