A veteran Los Angeles news photographer who captured some iconic images during the 1992 riots recently revisited the places those photographs were taken, hoping to make new photographs of the community renewal promised after days of rage and destruction decades ago.
Ted Soqui used the same kind of camera he'd used 30 years ago, an all mechanical Nikon F2, and black and white film, to try to mirror the feeling of the original pictures.
Insider.com recently published the then-and-now photos, side by side.
"They look like they could have been taken within a week or a day of each other," he said of some still-empty businesses along Vermont Avenue that were never rebuilt after fires during the riots.
"It feels, like backwards, actually, when I put the two images together."
Soqui's riot photos, widely published in the years since, framed some of the scenes now emblematic of what happened in the days after four police officers were found not guilty of assaulting Rodney King, including a line of helmeted officers trying to keep the first night's demonstrators from reaching the front doors of police headquarters in downtown LA, Parker Center.
"I actually talked to an officer 25 years later about this, and he told me that they were the last line of protection to the building, if they got past these guys," he said while showing a darkroom print made from his original negatives.
Soqui said he chose to shoot the new photos on film to try to avoid the added sharpness and clarity that digital images often provide.
“When you shoot it on film it makes an impression impression on a piece of actual film. So it's actually it feels like a piece of something that is more tangible. Well, digital is more computational, goes through a lot of processes in the camera and it doesn't come out with a warmth, or it's hard to get the right one," he said.
Several of Soqui's photographs from the riot, and one specific portrait of Rodney King, are also being used by artist Shepard Fairey in a commemorative print titled, "Eyes on the King Verdict." Some of the proceeds will be shared with a community group in Watts.
Soqui says he hopes the then-and-now photos and the poster will remind the public of the unfulfilled promises that communities damaged by the events that week would be rebuilt, certainly by now, decades later.
"Los Angeles has done very well as a city. But if you go south of the 10 freeway, you'll actually see as I did, that the infrastructure is still the same as it was."