It sometimes bothers Gregory Bojorquez when he is categorized as a “gang photographer” in East Los Angeles, Calif., because he says he hasn’t shot gang life in about 10 years. Instead, he says he just has a passion for photographing the unique and capturing what he knows and loves, and one of the things he knows inside out is his hometown – East L.A.
His latest exhibit “.45 Point Blank” at Hardhitta Gallery in Los Angeles features 45, mostly film, prints which focus in on his perspective of the last 20 years. Bene Taschen, the owner of the gallery, says he has also featured Bojorquez’ work in Germany last year. The exhibit has been such a success in Los Angeles that he has had to extend the exhibit for a week. It will now go on until July 21.
“I don’t want to be a common denominator photographer,” says Bojorquez who makes his living as a freelance celebrity and art photographer for publications such as, L.A. Weekly, the Los Angeles Times, and Rolling Stone. “There are guys who make a great living as wedding photographers, but I just wanted to do something more.”
Bojorquez grew up in Boyle Heights, east of downtown, and went to school in Montebello, which borders East L.A. He says although he used to enjoy taking his camera to high school and taking pictures there, when it was time to go to college, he was going to be a mechanic.
“I was kind of just working on my cars, going out, and doing nothing creative,” says Bojorquez, now 39. “An older friend told me I was creative and have to create.”
He says at this point in his life he was very unhappy, and it was because of that one friend who saw a talent in him, that his outlook on life became brighter. He decided to start taking film classes in Los Angeles City College.
“l felt like something was missing,” Bojorquez says about his early twenties. “I got back into taking photos. It was something that really changed my life and I really appreciate it…Sometimes being creative is challenging. It’s really tough, but I wouldn’t want to do anything else.”
Shortly after he picked up photography again, he started making money off of it, and his lifelong career began. By the time he was finishing college, around 1996, he found himself photographing in East L.A. a lot, and the “Eastsiders Project” was born, which he completed in 2001.
“I was photographing my friends a lot, at parties, etc.,” he says. “I was friends with guys before they got into gangs.”
However, Bojorquez likens himself to his favorite director, Frank Capra, of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
“I think humanizing people is very important,” he says. “It’s irresponsible to keep showing people as monsters. They have people who love them and they love people. Some of these guys get involved in gangs when they are 13….I wanted to make it real.”
He says his “Eastsiders Project,” which he shot entirely on film, is perhaps the most special to him because he spent a lot of time on it, and it memorializes a lot of the people who are now dead. Bojorquez says he likes to capture moments, like one of his favorite memories of going to Lincoln Park with his friend Michelle.
“It’s a beautiful photo…we were just hanging out on a random day,” says Bojorquez who prefers shooting on film because you can’t delete it. “Michelle went to college. She earned a master’s and helps kids with parents that are abusing drugs. Her father abused drugs, but she’s a really good person in spite of it. It’s very uplifting.”
After living in Hollywood for about a decade, Bojorquez is back in Boyle Heights. He says as long as he’s around he wants to keep grabbing shots, and he dreams big.
“My dream is Vanity Fair – my favorite photographers are in that one,” he says. “I have to shoot for that kind of thing.”
Click here to see more photos from Gregory Bojorquez.