Famed photographer Estevan Oriol captures heart and soul of LA street culture
By Spectrum News Staff Los Angeles
PUBLISHED 5:00 AM PT Sep. 26, 2022
Estevan Oriol began his career as a hip-hop club bouncer in Los Angeles, where he was introduced to LA-based groups Cypress Hill and House of Pain.
He became the groups’ tour manager and set off traveling the world on tour with the bands. To document the experience, his father — also a famed photographer — gave Oriol an old film camera and told him that maybe he, too, would become an artist.
“I thought art was just that, people knew how to do it or they went to school to learn how to do it,” Oriol said.
Though he may not have had any professional training, Oriol proved he had the eye and natural talent of an artist.
In this episode of “LA Stories,” Oriol shares with host Giselle Fernandez how his love of photography grew from a hobby to an art he mastered.
Oriol is known for capturing the hip-hop and street culture of LA with raw, black-and-white film photos depicting a side of the city rarely shown in the spotlight. He specializes in photos of lowrider cars, gang members and the homeless community — but also actors, musicians and other celebrities.
He has even directed movies and music videos. For Oriol, it is important to approach each subject the same way.
“I don’t treat anybody different just because you’re a Hollywood celebrity or you’re a gang member that some people look down at,” he said. “I look at everybody the same.”
Oriol’s love for LA is evident in every picture he takes, which he has depicted in his photography books “LA Portraits” and “This is Los Angeles.”
He says he’s in a race to capture the LA he knew growing up. With gentrification bringing changes to the city, he hopes his photos help tell the story of a subculture in the city that few get to experience.
“I show the city for what it is. There’s so much in LA,” he said. “I like that mixture of people, like a melting pot.”