A Los Angeles gangland photographer has unveiled iconic images from his unseen archive, including Hollywood actors and tattooed thugs.
Captured by Estevan Oriol over the last 20 years on the streets of the Californian city, the images juxtapose the glamour of stars like Kim Kardashian, with the harsh reality of life on the streets.
Oriol is one of the few photographers to have been granted access to the murky world of LA’s gangsters and perhaps the only to take an interest in not just the glitz but also the grit.
A tattoo artist ink’s another man’s neck in the open-air on the mean streets of Los Angeles – tattoos in the city are not just for looks but also an important way of identifying friend from foe in gang warfare
Hollywood actor Adrien Brody – known for the Pianist and The Grand Budapest Hotel – poses in a fedora with his arm draped out the window of his car, Oriol wrote on Instagram: ‘I did this one of @adrienBrody a few years back for Risen Magazine’
Kim Kardashian (left) in this picture from circa the mid-2000s, embodies the glamour and exclusivity of Hollywood (left) while a woman throwing up an ‘LA’ hand gesture (right) has a grittier feel
Hollywood actor Danny Trejo, Oriol wrote on Instagram: ‘I did about 10 magazine shoots with @officialdannytrejo and a few #jokerbrand ads, I forget which one this was for. After a few shoots I noticed I always got good ones of him so I tried to take a bad shot of him and couldn’t do it! He always comes out good’
He began his career in the 1990s, shooting the things he had grown up with: low-rider gangs, tattoo artists, hip-hop bands and the urban environment he saw vilified in the media
Oriol told the LA Mag in March last year: ‘In ’89 I met Muggs from Cypress Hill, and in ’92 he gave me the job tour managing with House of Pain and in ’94 tour managing for Cypress Hill.
‘With all that and joining a low-rider club in 1994, I was one of the only people in my circle that had a camera with me all the time, so I had to do it.
‘I got a lot of photos of low-riding. There weren’t that many people that owned low-riders and that were photographers. When I was on tour, I got a lot of photos of the hip-hop world and all the traveling.’
Robert De Niro and Al Pacino for the 2008 film Righteous Kill, Oriol said: ‘Top 5 of the highlights in my career was definitely shooting @alpacino_official and his co star #robertdeniro I felt like I made it and I could quit photography’
Oriol wrote of this picture of rapper Eminem on Instagram: ‘One of the first shoots I did of @eminem at encore studios, showing his new ink he had done by @misterctoons the other day @bobbytribal asked me who was my favorite or best rapper in the world. I’ve been around the best in the world ever and I had to go with this guy right here. Later that afternoon I seen the @defiantones with Em and @drdre’
As well as capturing the glamour of Los Angeles, Oriol had unprecedented access to the world of gangsters having established himself in the low-rider and Hip-Hop cultures of the 1990s
Rapper Snoop Dogg in 1998, Oriol wrote of the shoot: ‘It was for a magazine called #RapPages a Larry Flynt Publication. The whole shoot was about 20-30 minutes it was in the alley of Encore Studios. The cover and 8-10 pages inside’
Rapper 50 Cent, Oriol wrote on Instagram: ‘@50cent with the raging bull @lagunclub some years back for Rime Magazine one of the only Hip Hop magazines from L.A. Independently owned by my boy J Flores We wanted to highlight the West Coast scene but showed love to everyone from every where, A lot of Times East coast mags stayed loyal to the east coast so we bright shine to our peeps here in L.A’
Oriol said he learned his craft while capturing low-riders at his car club and not to be afraid of taking pictures of anyone at anytime.
He told the LA Mag a photographer has to be respectful of who and what he is taking a picture of, saying: ‘In some of the places I shoot in, things can go wrong real fast and real bad.’
He told the magazine ‘L.A. is part of my DNA—it’s in my blood,’ and there was nowhere in the world like it.
Oriol said he moved to Los Angeles as a teenager and later become swept up in the low-rider culture of car enthusiasts who are known to fit their cars with hydraulic suspension so that can bounce up and down
A man being tattooed in a parlor in Los Angeles, he has the city’s name emblazoned across his back beneath the word ‘Restless’
Oriol said he learned his craft while capturing low-riders at his car club and learned not to be afraid of taking pictures of anyone at anytime and once he had built up a reputation he began receiving glamorous offers to do celebrity shoots
A low-rider car’s suspension is slammed so low that its bottom causes sparks to fly through the air as it drives through this tunnel in the City of Angels
Beginning his career as a hip-hop club bouncer turned tour manager for popular Los Angeles-based rap groups Cypress Hill and House of Pain, Oriol’s passion for photography developed while travelling the world
The skyline of downtown Los Angeles, Oriol said, ‘L.A. is part of my DNA—it’s in my blood,’ and there was nowhere in the world like it
Publisher Drago say on their website: ‘From “homies” to Hollywood, this definitive anthology depicts the city of Los Angeles in all its forms and captures 20 years of Oriol’s extraordinary career.
‘The extensive portfolio charts the soul of Los Angeles, from portraits of Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Dennis Hopper, Marissa Miller, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, Floyd Mayweather and Lance Armstrong, to the counter-culture of the Latino world of tattoos and the dark reality of gangs.’
This is Los Angeles is on sale on Amazon for $55.