2018 Week 2

Week two consists of only a couple days of shooting. I went out shooting in the rain and at a PST LA/LA performance by Raul Baltazar.

Fifty weeks to go in 2018!

2018 Week 1

Let's run a check: Is everybody in? Welcome to 2018!

It looks like this year will not have any downtime. I usually kick off late in January, yawning and stretching, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes. Not this year. We've already been busy with plans and projects to nurture and grow. 

This year I'm breaking down the photos into 52 weeks. Feel free to share and ask your friends to follow me on the 'gram. Thanks! 

Here is week one in a slideshow.

Solo Show at VPAM 2018

VPAM Photo: Devin Sarno

VPAM Photo: Devin Sarno

It's hard to believe that I can say these words: I have been invited to have a solo exhibit at VPAM in the spring of 2018. 

The show's theme and title are still being fine tuned but I've been given the green light to announce it. I'm looking forward to working with Pilar Thompkins-Rivas and the team at the museum to develop a strong experience for visitors.

The Vincent Price Art Museum has been on my radar since I was a student at East LA College over 20 years ago. Back then I was a theater student on campus and VPAM was inside a tiny building amongst the bungalows. The Little Theater, as it was aptly named and where I performed in many plays, sat at the end of a small parking lot where the new VPAM now stands in exclamation. 

Can't wait to share more when I know more.

Manuel Lopez lines up.


Manuel Lopez is an East LA native that studied painting at the Chicago Institute of Art. We met at a party in 2010 when I first started posting a photo a day on my old Eastsider website. He would always comment on my photos about how the images kept him connected to home. 

After graduating from college he returned to East LA and he has been painting, producing work and developing his approach and style. He's been included in a few group shows. We've become friends and have been part of a drawing group together. I always admired his ability to give personality to a line in his artwork. His scabrous lines tell stories that I relate to. 

One day in April, I asked him to allow me to follow him with a camera while he drew the hillsides that we both grew up surrounded by. I wanted to attempt making my first video essay. I then interviewed him in my home for the audio. 

Below is the video that we made. It's pretty long for the current norm on online attentions spans. I like to think of it as a conversation with Manuel. A 15 minute conversation wherein you are an active listener. Feel free to leave comments on the YouTube page.


Las dos aqui, regresando de allá.

Irene Diaz and Carolyn Cardoza on Broadway, LA.

I had been playing the I Love You Madly EP on rotation for at least a month when I first bumped into Irene Diaz and Carolyn Cardoza at Eastside Luv. I fanned out and took a photo of them that day and have been taking photos of them since. 

Recently, they were in Mexico recording songs for a new album. This project is being Produced at BabyJesus Hood Studios with Demian and Alejandro Jimenez in Coyoacan, and is set to be released in 2018. Seems so far away.

When they came back to the states I invited them to meet me downtown so that we can catch up and snag some a few photos to document their return.

We talked about the cobble stone streets that they were beginning to get accustomed to and how now they miss that feeling under their feet. We talked food, coffee and donuts; three things they are not shy to be addicted to. 

And of course, immigration issues came up. Borders....., lines on the ground that can't stop music from traveling. 

Sandy Rodriguez in color. Studio visit.

From her website: 
"Her paintings capture moments of transformation in the social and cultural landscape of Los Angeles, with a focus on themes of the persistence of place, activism, and physical and cultural regeneration." (http://sandyrodriguez.org)

After a long drive west, passed everything that I see daily, I park my car on a quiet nicely aligned street with lots of green grass and neatly painted homes. Sandy Rodriguez comes cruising down the street on her bike and waves at me. It was a hot LA day.

We walk into a backyard where her studio rests nicely next to a cool and inviting swimming pool. We talk about art and "la vida." 

Getting to know her and her process we spent a couple of hours drinking iced water while we shared stories. I asked her if I could take some photos before I left.

Heading back to my side of town I kept thinking about how I was inspired by the fire in her paintings. I decided that I wanted to post her photos in color. I added a little tint to these images because this is how i saw them in my head.

Rafael Esparza with his hands in the mud.

On an overcast day in January, I made my way to the LA River adjacent Bowtie Project where Rafael Esparza and his crew were getting ready to mold one of the early batches of adobe bricks for his latest installation that will be part of the Whitney Biennial. He loan me his pair of Nike Cortez so I wouldn't get my new Adidas dirty. I rode in the back of a pick-up truck to gather buckets of water from the LA River and watched as dirt/water and hay, molded by wood, were transformed into bricks by the crew.

Production was cut short due to rain but they went on to make over 3,000 adobe bricks that all got shipped to New York for the show. This grand task was completed with the help of Esparza's friends and supporters that volunteered assistance over a period of a couple months.

I put my palm on one of the bricks to infuse it with my energy. On that night a lone coyote decided to do the same thing and placed his paw print on a few.

Here is a complete slideshow of that day in photos.

Sal Lopez at LATC

This is one of those, "I was fortunate to be called to shoot..." moments.

I've been watching Sal do theater since the 1994 production of 'Bandido' at the Taper. Since then I have seen him in numerous shows and films.  If you haven't been out to the theater I hope you give it a shot sometime. Sal Lopez and the Latino Theater Company continue to create this kind magic for the public to enjoy.

I was called to shoot the marketing photos for the current production of 'La Olla,' now playing at LATC. A farcical romp based on 'The Pot of Gold' by the ancient Roman playwright, Plautus, adapted by Evelina Fernandez. These are my favorite shots. #1 above. #2 below.

Click here to get tickets to this show.

Also, click on any image for a better view.

The vicissitudes of Ariana Joelle Kaufman Petrojvic

Wherein, I introduce you to the world of, Ariana.

I met her in the magical days of hanging out with Killsonic, not sure how far back that was. Maybe it was 2009.
When I first met her she was introduced as a Petrojvic.
When she hired me to do her headshots and she asked me to use the name Kaufman.
Her middle name is Joelle.

As I discovered all her names I also discovered all of her talents and her many faces.
I don't know what else to say because she defies a simple explanation.

I will say that I hope to continue to photograph her metamorphosis and growth.

Click on the links below and enjoy:

1. Short Film - 'Anita'

2. Music Video - Mystery Bau, 'Twisted'

3. Music Video - Mystery Bau, 'Bite It'

Click on any image for a better view.

A Mulher Misteriosa, Eddika "Edule" Organista

Click on all images to see them full size.


It's no secret that Eddika "Edule" Organista is a multi-talented artist.

She currently lends her vocals and instrumentality in El Haru Kuroi and has been in several musical projects over the years; Yaksi, Arkestra Clandestina, Zoom-B and Yanga.

She attended Pasadena City College, initially majoring in art but then changed it to music, focusing on jazz studies, guitar and voice. 

She then worked for LAUSD for 4 years teaching elementary school children world music performance through singing and percussion.

When she decided to go back to school she chose UCLA for an undergrad program and earned a degree in Ethnomusicology and a minor in Brazilian Portuguese. She studied in Brazil with the study abroad program, studied Afro-Cuban percussion under Francisco Aguabella and was also part of the Bulgarian Women's Choir under Tzvetanka Varimezova.

One more round of school allowed her to earn a Masters degree at USC in TESOL. She currently works at CSUN teaching international students academic English, while simultaneously being an active musician. 

She was a little shy in front of the camera at first but fell into a nice groove. She posed in a dress and skirt that she discovered while bargain hunting. 

After changing back into her street clothes she had a little more fun with the camera and we go the images you see below.

Click on all images to see them full size.

Iliana Carter, Character Studies

Iliana Carter is a stage and film actress working hard on her craft. We got together at my home studio to shoot a few character studies. There is nothing more rewarding than looking at a thinking person through the lens of the camera.

An actor will open up to help you see inside yourself.

"That's what our work can do: we remind people that things can change, that wounds can heal, that people can be forgiven, and that closed hearts can open again." --Larry Moss

She has the beautiful gift of vulnerability. Here are a few character portraits we came up with on the fly.

Visit Ilinana's IMDB page if you would like to learn more.

Click on the images to see them full size.

Abel Alejandre, The Cross Hatcher

Hailing from Long Beach by way of Michoacan, Abel Alenjandre, is the cross hatching monster. He is a murderer of pencils.

Each of his drawings consume hundreds of blue Staedtlers. A feat that I imagine can only be accomplished by creating a calmness deep within. It takes thousands of tiny graphite scratches on a piece of paper to create this: innumerable hours hunched over an easel: knowing where to set the tip down and where to pick it up intuitively, again and again. 

“All true artists, whether they know it or not, create from a place of no-mind, from inner stillness.” --Eckhart Tolle

Abel is responsible for the drawing of me that will be included in a series of panels for the Metro Westwood Station that will open later this year. See more panels by clicking here.

On my way to house-sit in Huntington Beach I stopped by his home studio for a quick portrait session.

He was in the process of a maiden run of his self-made printing press. See more of his work at www.AbelAlenjandre.com

Click on all images to enlarge them.

A Face In The Crowd, Barrio Boogie

A Face In The Crowd is one of my favorite film classics. If you get a chance to see it you will add it to your favorite list too, I'm sure.

When I arrived at Barrio Boogie last Sunday and saw the huge crowd by the stage, I immediately began to repeat that title in my head and I couldn't let it go, "A face in the crowd, a face in the crowd, a face in the crowd." I turned the camera on and started capturing. I'm really happy to share these pics. I hope that no one was offended by my camera all up in their face. But what a handsome bunch I captured in the very short time that I was there.

What a great event. I'm already looking forward to the next one.

Congrats to The Barrio Dandy, John Carlos De Luna and his team.

Felipe Esparza, A Sense of Place

If you've never been to Aliso Village in Boyle Heights, you never will. It’s gone. Google it. You can read about it and find old pictures of it, sure. But only a person that grew up there will ever know what it was like. I had family that grew up there. We’d visit often. So even though I never lived there, I still experienced it, and can recall a sense of the place. Comedian Felipe Esparza grew up there and when I see his stand up comedy I get flashbacks of being there.


“Sense of place…is a combination of characteristics that makes a place special and unique. Sense of place involves the human experience in a landscape, the local knowledge and folklore. Sense of place also grows from identifying oneself in relation to a particular piece of land on the surface of planet Earth.” --The Art of Geography


A few weeks back Felipe came to my home studio for a photo shoot. We also went under the 6th Street bridge and Hollenbeck Park. Since we are only a few years apart we shared a lot of the same cultural happenings of the late 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. We spent a few hours reminiscing about each other's street traumas but definitely feeling that separation between those days and now.

Felipe Esparza is now a nationally recognized celebrity selling out houses all over the country and touring overseas. His particular brand of delivery couldn’t come from anywhere else but his own life experience. He is a genuine one-of-a-kind.

This is the first set of photos from what I hope becomes a lifelong series of photographing comedians. Click on the images to see them full size.

Double Bday

Last weekend I shot a birthday party in East Los Angeles. Here are a few select images from that day.

Do you remember..¸¸.•*¨*•♫... September...

I hope you're all staying hydrated and are applying the proper level of SPF. Here is a short list of recent activity in my work life. I really appreciate all of you that follow along. Muchisimas Gracias.

~ rafa

Festival goers flying their flag at the Made in America concert held on the steps of city hall and Grand Park.

Shooting for Marketplace


I've been approached to shoot for Marketplace.org, a public radio show that airs across the country. They're doing a series of stories in Highland Park. The series will span two months of reporting and will include my photography. I'll be on assignment throughout the process.

Meet me at Chico's for cafe de holla!

Music Makers

I had the privilege of having Irene Diaz and Carolyn Cardoza in my studio for a session. We listened to Lana Del Rey and slowly got into a good groove for shooting. These photos are still in the cooker being edited. You should see more photos from this series as they release them on their site and social media. Visit IreneDiaz.com.

This inspired an internal conversation about shooting more musicians all of 2015 to compile a book.

All of these photos were shot using natural light and an aluminum reflector. Only a few had a home depot light rig that I put an umbrella on. I'm really looking forward to releasing these.

Making Waves

Giovanni Douresseau at Dockweiler Beach

The California Community Foundation was looking for someone to capture this young man for their annual report. I was up to the task of getting wet a little and might have damaged a lens while doing my best to avoid sea spray.

The CCF funds The Youth Mentoring Connection. The YMC has a surf program that brings inner city kids to the beach and teaches them to ride the waves. I saw it as a metaphor for learning to stand up strong no matter what direction life may carry you in.

Giovanni Douresseau, above, is the focus of a short documentary that will be released soon. He loved surfing from the first day he tried it. Because of this program he decided to lose a substantial amount of weight to make surfing his life. He now competes and continues with the YMC, now as a mentor -- all while working on his college degree.

Express Yourself

LA Commons continues to put on very cool workshops for people to express themselves. I'm always glad to be called to document these events for them. Take a look at the work they do by visiting their website at www.lacommons.org.

New Flame Video Shoot Stills

Chris Brown just released his album "X." A month back I got to shoot behind the scenes and stills. This shoot was out in the desert around Palmdale. This was pretty cool because I was also able to shoot Usher, Rick Ross and Tyga. Here's a couple pics. The label owns these photos so I can't share the rest. You can see the video here. http://youtu.be/fhdP5Irrl1I