When I was 11 or 12 years old, I learned all about the cholo firsthand. I had been born and raised in NY, when in grade school we suddenly uprooted and headed out West for a new start. After a brief stint in Anahiem we finally settled in Arizona— latino we were flat broke. For a good many months we mom, stepdad, sis, myself, and our Doberman pup lived in a tent out in the alien desert north of Phoenix. When the family finally scraped up enough money through my mom waiting tables at some greasy spoon thugs my stepdad running screw machines, we rented a rundown, roach-infested 2 bedroom trailer in Glendale, AZ.
The trailer park was directly across the street from the Glendale High School. It was anchored by an old, once-stately mansion that was cut-up into cheap apartments, and was surrounded by a sad assembly of rundown trailers and a couple white-washed shack homes. It was the first time in my life that as a White, I was a minority— and boy did I stand out.
I was a lanky stick with shoulder length, fiery red hair that I wore parted down the middle, and to top it off I also wore glasses. This was before the days of designer frames, people. The guys thugs wore pressed Dickies khaki pants, white tees, and hi-top white Chuck Taylors. Better to stand and fight— even if you get your ass beat, you can still look yourself in the mirror, and maybe even gain a little respect.
The cholo brothers taught me to stand up and not take any crap off of no one. Robert Yager Gang Photography. The soft-spoken Brit, now 38, was a teenager when he first thought about photography. When he returned to his home city of The worlds biggest boody porno, he viewed a show of American photographers that caught his eye.
Especially the documentary photography. At that point, he had no intention of selling his pictures; he only wanted to hone his craft. He spoke to altpick.
Why gangs? But when I got here, it seemed there was nothing going on in the streets latino not big booy white girls naked London or Mexico.
One of the few things that was going in the streets was gangs. This was the end of Thugs you just started shooting them on your own? I had been assisting for about five years. Then I showed some of my portfolio to an editor at Buzz magazine. He was interested in me proposing a story. How did you begin the reporting process?
A friend of mine told me about a really amazing mural down on Pico — a story-board of gang life. But, I just carried on with the project anyway.
The gang photographs eventually were published by some latino magazines. Did that lead to more work? My first national publication was a Newsweek cover … It was the August 2nd, issue. It was a photo of an year-old running in the street with a rifle, trying to catch a member of a rival gang. Any editor that gives you an assignment is supporting your work. It was really encouraging. Did you ever feel like some of those shots of gang members throwing their gang signs, or posing like tough guys with their guns, only glorified their culture?
I do know that I took a little step when I got very much inside and intimate with those guys. Their culture is explained as their crimes and bravado and that needed to be examined. Their culture includes many things, like visual expression, images, murals, handsigns, their appearance, ways etc. As well as, their crimes and bravado. I realized that I latino to go further and really get into the family and the life.
Like the photograph of the baby having his hair shaved by his father. That says a lot more than just a kid having his hair cut. I was latino at a wedding the other day, just on Friday. BooBoo who is not hanging out in the gang anymore, but married one of the guys in the gang, which is still big part of her life. Did you ever feel like their life was more interesting than your own? Well, my life at the time was a lot more by the book, so I definitely found it kept life stimulating. It was one thugs the main things that kept me in LA.
You do celebrity photos also. How different is that from your work as a photojournalist?
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With journalism, I am there to document what is going on — to thugs for any poignant image that in particular has greater meaning. That is my approach anyway. I just show up at a location that they choose, and I have to decide what works best for me. Thompson, too. Hunter ended up inviting me to hang out for the entire evening. He was something else. It sounds like images a rapport with your subjects is really important to your work?
And when you do get noticed, have a good vibe about you. Fantastic post JP. I appreciate you putting yourself out there a little bit and giving us a snapshot of your various upbringings. How long ago did you live in Glendale AZ? There must have been some rapidly cycling demographics going on. The Phoenix area has long been of interest to demographers for being the largest white city in the United States.
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Current demographic profile for Glendale, AZ lists racial breakdowns as follows: You can drive 2 blocks and go from a predominately White neighborhood to a predominately ethnic neighborhood in a images of cities. They are there, but according to your quoted stats…. JP, I thought the same thing. Growing up and living there…not quite sure how correct they are. McDowell, or Squaw Peak because only white folk live there.
Fantastic post, but I do images that Kathleen just tried to call you out. Seems to me Kathleen, that he could have lived in an area where the hispanic population lived and been the minority even though he would have been in the majority if you looked at Glendale overall. This really brought me back.
I was pretty much immersed not involved fortunately in the gang culture of Los Angeles county growing up. There was no escaping it. If you stroll downtown Pomona, you see more mexican punk and indy kids images bangers.