Photographer Gabriel Ibarra shares that his vision is thrown off by some of the new buildings being constructed in Santa Clara that, from his perspective, seem to sit at the edge of the pavement. He feels more connected to the city’s older buildings and structures, such as those on El Camino Real. For his fifth annual photography exhibit, “The King’s Highway,” Ibarra pays tribute to these older establishments with a showcase of 41 captivating images that shine a soothing light on the down home side of Santa Clara. The images are currently on exhibit until Dec. 30 at the Santa Clara Senior Center (1303 Fremont Ave.) inside the display case near the reading area.
“The King’s Highway is the original name of El Camino Real before it became El Camino Real,” Ibarra says. “I took some daytime pictures on El Camino but found them bland. And then I started to go onto El Camino during the evening to take pictures. It seemed like nighttime affected shadows to give a more dramatic look to the subjects. The places I photographed are so familiar. You drive by them so many times and you feel like they’re a part of you. You feel like these places belong to you.”
Reading a book called “California’s El Camino Real and its Historic Bells” (by Max Kurillo and Erline Tuttle), Ibarra learned that the 700 mile long El Camino Real runs from San Diego to Sonoma. Mary Hanel, retired local history librarian from the Santa Clara City Library, adds that the part of El Camino Real that Ibarra photographed is part of State Route 82 (under Caltrans jurisdiction) and that this 52 mile stretch mainly spans from San Jose to San Francisco.
Recognizable El Camino sights highlighted in Ibarra’s exhibit include the Peace Pipe Smoke Shop, Mariani’s Restaurant and the Moonlight Bowling Alley.
Ibarra shares memories behind his glowing white image of the See’s Candies store.
“When I was growing up, my grandmother loved See’s Candies; the store is a landmark here,” he says. “At night, it seems like there’s an aura around the store. There’s the isolation of everything around it. My image shows the lights and darks. The building really stands out.”
In another photograph, the regal statue of St. Clare seems to overlook its surroundings.
“This statue was put up in 1965,” Ibarra says. “The statue gives me a good feeling of peacefulness.”
Also displayed in “The King’s Highway” are signs with decor of neon lights advertising lodging at places such as the Western Motel and the closed King’s Highway Motel.
“The signs are a piece of Americana,” Ibarra says. “The King’s Highway Motel, formerly on El Camino on Lafayette, is no longer here. I took this picture in 1990.”