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  • Writer's pictureJefferson Graham

Photographing Venice Beach

The summer is long over and the crowds should be gone, but they’re not.

There’s always a party, and a huge smorgasbord of street performers, vendors selling everything from your name on a piece of rice and miniature skulls to little painted surfboards and bawdy swimsuits and throngs of tourists. More than 10 million people yearly come to visit this only-in-LA attraction, according to the local Chamber of Commerce, which says Venice is the No. 2 tourist draw in Southern California to Disneyland.

Venice Beach by Jefferson Graham

Venice Beach sign, part of the #SoCalPhotowalks series by Jefferson Graham

And why not? A visit for four to Disneyland could easily top $450 before the family has even walked through the gates. In Venice, the show is free – as long as you can snag a parking spot (it can be done) or set aside $10 or $20 for a parking lot.

Among Venice’s highlights for visitors: body builders on Muscle Beach, the former home of future action star and governor Arnold Schwarzenegger; the skate park, the only one we know of with an ocean view; and street performers, including everyone from the guy who dons his roller skates every morning and patrols up and down Ocean Front Walk playing the electric guitar to a team of acrobats doing multiple somersaults.

And for those who like old-fashioned beach activities, there’s always the surf, a popular pier and walks in the sand.

Venice Beach is also a haven for art lovers. The more outgoing neighbor to tony Santa Monica is an art show in itself and beyond what you see in the storefronts and product booths. Look up and you’ll also find a dizzying array of colors and hues everywhere. There are murals depicting former Venice Beach notables such as the late Jim Morrison, the lead singer from the Doors, to Venice founder Abbot Kinney, shown against a backdrop of his man-made canals and bridges. You’ll find giant portraits of dogs on the outside of homes, giant flowers painted over a dry cleaning store, wild collections of images and characters jumping out on local walls and a depiction of the Orson Welles 1958 film “Touch of Evil” (which was partially shot in Venice) in a parking lot.

In fact, there’s so much to see in Venice, we had to break it up into two separate photo tours. See the slideshow above for the colorful street scenes and people watching, and you’ll find an assortment of evocative murals and street art below.

Venice Beach

Windward Avenue in Venice, as photographed from the top of the Hotel Erwin. Part of the #SoCalPhotowalks series by Jefferson Graham

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