In this indelible photo, the rapper will forever be etched in our collective memory as simultaneously an imperfect saint and a perfect outlaw.
Two fingers up saying “f*ck the world”, Tupac was looking to make a statement with this shot. The photoshoot was part of his album cover for Thug Life, Volume 1. Ironically, this photo was supposed to be a simple outtake, part of several photos taken all over Downtown LA, East LA, and Compton, but has become one of the photos that most people resonate with via posters, shirts, iPhone backgrounds, etc. It’s emotionally stirring and really captures the brilliance of Tupac in 1994. Young, misunderstood, and strapped with a message for the world.
To find the location of this iconic Tupac photo, I had to go back to the original source aka the photographer- Mike Miller. After reaching out to him, and doing some rigorous digging through his comments on instagram, I was finally able to nail down where in Los Angeles this photo was taken. In Vernon, a city just 10 minutes south of downtown Los Angeles, California in an old abandoned train yard. When we got to the intersection of Pacific Blvd and Santa Fe, we made a left and drove along Pacific Blvd. My eyes lit up when I saw an old abandoned factory immediately to my right, and I swerved into the parking lot. But after excitedly finding a facsimile, upon careful observation we saw that the location didn’t match the structure of the the building behind ‘Pac in the original photo. Luckily for us, it didn’t take much longer to find the gold mine. As we continued down Pacific Blvd, we spotted it. The thrill, exhilaration and adrenaline surged through my veins as we parked on the street and made our way into this very old and rugged train yard, taking the exact steps to the location that Tupac and his thug life crew had took 26 years earlier.
As we began to conduct the photoshoot, there was an almost eery, and yet familiar feeling that came over me. It was like I could feel Tupac’s presence there, and I had only felt that once before- when I found the “I ain’t mad atcha” location.
If you go visit, be sure to be careful. There were a few shady looking individuals around, and quite frankly this isn’t the most glamorous part of town. But it is definitely worth visiting and replicating the powerful image of Tupac in 1994 telling the world what it can do.
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Location: 4457 Pacific Blvd, Vernon, CA 90058