Estevan Oriol’s LA Portraits shows a side of our city that belies the usual pretty staged shots of civic leaders, celebrities, and architectural glory. There are no swimming pools or movie stars. LA Portraits is tough unflinching look at Los Angeles gangs, photographed by Oriol, whose work takes us deep behind gang lines. These are at times heartbreaking and ultimately humanizing pictures: Despite the guns and facial tattoos, the masked faces, the colors and signs, Oriol brings out the depth and emotion in his subjects.
Given a old camera by his dad and stepmom, Oriol began taking photos of his friends other people in the lowrider scene. That was twenty years ago. His work was noticed by magazines, and he was given assignments to cover gang culture in Los Angeles, which he does with grace and verve. His beautifully composed photos record moments of braggadocio, loss, resignation, celebration. For LA Portraits, Oriol writes
It was big challenge choosing the pictures for this book.
There were close moments in dangerous situations:
As you can image, some of these shots weren’t taken at the safest moment, but if you don’t take some risks, you don’t get the photos.
Oriol got the photos, ranging through the races and ages of gangs in LA, through neighborhoods hidden from view. His portraits show a very different side of Los Angeles that the Braday Bunch suburbs and movie maps. In his photos there is truth, and despite the grit and rawness, beauty, because
Beauty is truth, truth beauty,–that is all
Ye know on earth and all ye need to know
Estavan Oriol will be signing LA Portraits, published by Drago, Friday, March 28th from 7pm to 10 at La Luz de Jesus Gallery.