Nos Vemos: visiting with photographer Billy Montenegro of SELA Foto Tour

We invite you this week to meet a third Nos Vemos/We See Us artist – part of Metro Art’s ongoing series this fall! 

Billy Montenegro,  the founder of the SELA Photography Club, is leading a series of photography meetups and Instagram challenges for his project SELA Foto Tour. Billy invites Southeast LA residents to slow down, wander and reflect on their neighborhood through photography. The places, subjects and textures shared by contributors will help inform future transportation investments in the Southeast LA area.  

The SELA Foto Tour invites community members of all experience levels to bring a camera (of any kind), join a photo walk meet-up and document what makes SELA unique from their point-of-view.  In between meetups, local shutterbugs are invited to participate on their own during themed challenges.  

The themes — which will change every two weeks through the end of November — range from SELA architecture to food and more. Share your photos by tagging @SELAPhotography.Club on Instagram or emailing 

The first SELA Foto Tour Photo Walk meetup took place at Treder Park in the city of Bell on Saturday, October 16. Upcoming walks are scheduled in Huntington Park on Saturday, November 6, and South Gate on Sunday, Nov. 14. 

Learn a bit more about Billy and what inspires him, below.

Tell us a bit about your connection with SELA? 

I have been a resident of South Gate for the last 30 years. I also have family in its neighboring cities as well. In the last couple of years I have gotten to know a group of artists that reside all throughout SELA. This inspired me to start the SELA Photography Club. I saw a lack of representation of photographers in this area. I know SELA has artists, including photographers, and I wanted to create a hub where we could create a community to share experiences, get to know each other and provide support.  

When and how did you start making photographs? Do you remember what you first photographed?

I started to photograph about 10 years ago when I was in a car club. At first it started with friendly
 competitions, like who would take the best car picture? Slowly we transitioned into photographing other topics. This is where I combined my hobbies of going camping and photography. Although I focus more on landscape photography, I consider myself a photographer first and a landscape photographer second. Whenever I get a chance, I still enjoy photographing cars as it always takes me back to my beginnings.  

Where do you go to find creative inspiration? 

I get my creative inspiration from everyday people and artists that I have met. I start to research places I have an interest in and start using the tools available such as hashtags, maps, and geo-tagging to find interesting locations. I am not a shy person and I have been known to send someone a private message on Instagram and ask how to get to a certain location, or for details about how the location was on their last trip. Everyone has a unique view of the world. I am intrigued by multiple perspectives and just want to continue to share the experience.  

Your good friend is visiting SELA and you want to show them a great time (using transit, of course!). Where would you take them and why? 

Being a long-time resident of South Gate, I cannot think of a better experience than what I know. We would start out at Yuri’s Records and check out their awesome merchandise. Then walk down to the city library, photograph its amazing architecture and take a peek at some books inside. Running low on energy, I would take them to my favorite taco shop, La Taquiza. After enjoying some tacos, we would stop by Chapinlandia to get some desserts and walk to South Gate Park to take a siesta in the middle of the park. A little secret, if you find the right spot and shade you forget you are in the middle of a city. Finally, because who has the energy to walk back…we would take the 117 Metro bus back to our original destination and call it a day.  

Billy Montenegro is a self-taught photographer with a passion for nature and landscape photography. His artistic approach is to illustrate life in color because it expresses how widely diverse the world is and allows him to highlight the uniqueness. He has devoted his creativity to capturing these wonders and hopes to inspire others to explore beyond the city and appreciate the outdoors. Follow his project on Instagram for updates at @SELAPhotography.Club 

Click here for more information about Metro’s art program. Follow Metro Art on Facebook  and Instagram, and subscribe for email updates.