Photographer Tom M Johnson is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. These images are from his project ‘Lakewood’. To see Tom’s body of work click on any image.
“Lakewood: Portraits of a Sacred American Suburb”
In the late 1940’s and early 50’s many veterans and their families were looking for a new start. Lakewood, a new development in the southeast corner of Los Angeles County offered them that beginning. The founders of Lakewood designated their suburb “Tomorrow’s City Today,” because it was both modern and unique in its conception. Lakewood offered a utopia for the post war working middle class: affordable housing, new schools and parks, good jobs in the aerospace-defense industry and placed in the city’s center a new commercial concept–the shopping mall. For folks like my parents who had endured the hardships of the depression and war their house in Lakewood became sacred to them. It was their toehold onto the American dream.
Then the nineties came and suburban paradise began to fade. The aerospace-defense industry abandoned California, and what made tomorrow’s city today had become yesterday. Yet, Lakewood adapted and continues to adapt to new economic realities and prevail. Lakewood’s new motto, “Times Change Values Don’t,” accurately demonstrates that the hopes and dreams of Lakewood’s citizens today are not that different from those of the folks who came to Lakewood during its genesis.
Like any kid from the 60’s I discovered my suburb walking and riding my bike to school, the parks, and friends. Now, I revisit those same streets and places to behold what Lakewood has become. Gone are the old neighbors, the demographic is much less white, and most of the mid-twentieth century post-modernist façades have been altered; however, the similarities to what I can recall are greater than the differences and still on every street mixed with and often hidden amongst the new I manage to find souvenirs of the Lakewood I once knew.
By Tom M Johnson