Whether it is Palm trees, California houses, fast-food or Lindsay Lohan, the imagery of American pop culture is a growing source of inspiration for contemporary artists. Each week, Artsper will be presenting you an artist for our “I Love LA saga”. The artists selected are Los Angeles based or themed.
Los Angeles at the brink of the earth, the edge of the world, the last gasp before it drowns into the Pacific. “Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.” Frank Lloyd Wright said. A city of intersections and crossways, made into the city of dreams and possibilities. Once the desert and the wild west, it’s now “the city of quartz”, land of freeways and billboards, concrete and artificial radiant green lawns. Don’t be fooled, the desert city, has its autochthones, and the men and women that walk these streets are immortalized by renown photographer Estevan Oriol, a man who captured raw and dangerous beauty, a tribute to the city of angels. I discovered him flicking through a book of photography my boyfriend had shown me: LA Woman. I was instantly fascinated by the shots of these women, both rugged sensuality and delicate intimate beauty. From femme fatale vixens to sex kittens plunged into an atmosphere of “série noire”, masterpiece I thought!
Claire: You started taking photos with your father’s old camera and most of your shots are in black and white. Could you tell us about that choice? Do you like Los Angeles in black and white?
Estevan: At that time I didn’t even think about it, I wasn’t taught much, it was more like, here’s a camera go shoot some photos, I knew he shot slide film and about the cross process technic but I liked the black and white better, he went to 2 different labs Fotek for color and Focus for Black and White, I shot a little bit of both so I ended up going with the black and white because I liked it more and it was cheaper.
C: You have photographed both gang members and celebrities. Did you encounter the same difficulties photographing gang members and celebrities?
E: Yeah people are people, there is the kind, that like their picture taken, the kind that don’t know but if you talk to them right you can take their picture and the kind that hate it and won’t let you. Celebrities are weird they are used to moving cameras so still camera make them nervous but most the time they are cool and eazy.
C: In both LA Portraits and LA Woman, men look dangerous but so do women. Do you think the beauty of these women is as dangerous as men with guns on the streets?
The women are for sure dangerous, everybody can think evil and do evil man or woman.
C: It is clear you like to shoot beautiful women and your camera captures a raw and intimate beauty in each one of them. Does your approach change when photographing girls you know than just regular models?
E: No my approach is always the same that why it’s my style, I just be me with whoever I’m shooting and most times it works. I rarely shoot regular models from agencies unless it’s for a fashion job. I usually shoot girls that I know already or if they are referred or email a photo and they have the right look.
C: You said Los Angeles was your canvas. Has the canvas changed over the years?
E: Oh yes, it’s crazy I’ve been downtown for twenty years when it was empty and full of drugs and homeless people, now the money has come into the area and it’s Becoming very fancy and trendy. Cold press juices, $6 coffees, yoga and cross fit gyms are here with the dog walkers. No more graffiti in the L.A. River, it’s getting ruined as far as being the downtown grimy place to shoot, and they are tearing down the 6th street bridge, it’s got a little bit time left before they completely ruin it so I’m gonna shoot as much as I can before then. L.A. Isn’t the place to preserve the historical places, they knock it down and put all new stuff, throw a Starbucks and Jamba Juice in it and call a day.
C: What do you like most to shoot these days?
E: Jobs, after 20 years of shooting what I like, now that it’s my profession it’s the work that is the satisfying to shoot because I love what I do, so it easy to shoot what you want, the challenging part is to go hustle the work then complete the assignment and then have the customer walk away happy and you got paid for it, it’s even better when the customer comes back for more. That’s when you really know you did good.
C: Would you say LA Woman personifies Los Angeles with regard to both its danger and its sensuality?
L.A. Is a tough city, it’s the only city like it New York and other big cities are close, but L.A. Has « Hollywood » a lot of people come here to try to make their dreams of being rich and famous come true. And maybe 10% of them do it, the rest keep trying and trying, and the others go back home having failed. It’s either sexy for that reason or depressing, people keep coming though everyday by the plane, train or bus loads.
C: In the last page of the book LA Woman, I loved the picture of you and your wife. Does she like you to take photos of her?
E: Yes of course she does, she’s my biggest fan, I have a lot of pictures of the family. I got some good photos of the fam, they get mad though because they don’t get to see them they say. I shoot so much stuff it’s hard to show everyone all their photos.
C: Is there any French personality or celebrity you like? Are interested in? Would like to meet?
I used to want to shoot Béatrice Dalle and Vanessa Paradis, Laetitia Costa back in the day, I’m sure there is more people now days but I haven’t been to Paris in a minute I always like shooting with my good friend Big Red from Raggasonic .
C: Who would you like to shoot a portrait of if you could chose anyone?
E: Mike Tyson, Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, j Lo, brad and Angeline Pitt, Scarlett Johansson, Adriana Lima, Rihanna, Emily Ratajkowski, Megan Fox, can’t think of any more of the top of my head.
C: Any projects at the moment, what are you working on?
E: My goal is to publish 25 books total, I’m at 2 so I’m getting the next 23 ready, also looking to direct my first film. Other than that just shooting my regular stuff and figuring out my next steps because everything is changing so fast.
For more information on his work click here !