Estevan Oriol discovered a love for photography after the gift of a camera and a no-frills explainer from his father.
“My dad said, ‘Here’s a camera. This is the speed of the shutter and this is your depth of field,'” he explains, in a steady tone. “Here I am with my Ph.D. in photography… and Ph.D. means ‘push here dummy.'”
Estevan’s journey as an artist was undoubtedly shaped by that first lesson. His father had already made his name behind the lens, and the old man’s intuition that Estevan had something to add to the cultural conversation was spot on.
Eriberto Oriol started documenting the forgotten corners of Los Angeles in the 1980s — shining light on graffiti, homelessness, and protestors of state power. In 1989, he launched the first major graffiti-photo exhibit in Los Angeles to wide acclaim. He was a fresh pair of eyes, examining issues that had been ignored up until that point.
Meanwhile, Estevan was managing the hip hop acts Cypress Hill and House of Pain. When life on the road began to wear on him, he turned to his dad for guidance. Eriberto asked his son why he wasn’t documenting his famous friends. It was a eureka moment. Estevan pointed his lens at Latino low-rider culture and began capturing candid snapshots of the acts he was working with.
Eventually, this led to a collective called Soul Assassins formed with Cypress Hill, which highlights Angeleno art, photography, and music with a social conscience.
Recently, the Oriols held a joint show — giving fans the chance to absorb their works side-by-side for the first time. It was eye-opening for the photographers to see the similarities and deep disparities revealed by their varying takes on LA and its denziens.
One thing proved to be exactly the same, however: both Oriol men have deep reserves of compassion for their subjects. And it’s this shared empathy that truly makes their work feel alive.