Finding Myself in Many Faces

A short reflection of a still-fresh career

Self portrait, San Jacinto Wildlife Area, circa Fall 2019

I don’t come from a family of photographers. I don’t come from a family of writers, or journalists. I’m not good at many things. I’m very bad at school and most of the time I have the work ethic of something kicked under the fridge in the heat of rushed breakfast. Somewhere along the line, I loaned someone the money for a cruddy little camera in a backyard garage sale, and instead of getting my five dollars back, I probably got my only shot at a decent career. I don’t know what it is exactly I want as a career because my goals are held together with chewing gum and the mild buzz of an unhealthy hatred of who I am. All this aside, I do know one thing: I love taking photos of people and I want to do it for the rest of my life.

Self portrait, El Monte, circa Fall 2018

It started off as something to show off to my friends. I was tugging around a little point-and-shoot Kodak and grabbing the quick moments of what turned out to be the end of our lives as we knew them. Had I known the later memories of youth and innocence were worth more than a lifetime of success as an adult I would have printed and stored those cheap blurry and imperfect snapshots; cherished them for as long as I could. What few remain are taken for granted like many of the precious things in life.

The last real Summer together, West Covina, circa Summer 2017. Photographer: Janel Sepulveda

But those are photos for another story. Higher education, draining as it may be, has given me the opportunity to be a photojournalist: a storyteller with a few extra steps. It’s a different kind of occupation and it takes a lot from a person. Time and again have I dragged some poor friend to a gig and wasted efforts to immerse them into my world; try as I may, I always end up holding their head under the surface for just a minute too long.

What follows is a series of published and unpublished portraits of various context — ranging from painstakingly journalistic photography to blurry, hideously beautiful snapshots. The one thing they all have in common is that they are an inside look into the beautiful and greedy world I call home. It is beautiful because it is mine, and greedy because it might possibly never let me share it in its entirety.

Just a drag, Mt. SAC, circa Summer 2017
Skater, Mt. SAC, circa Summer 2017
Tío, Baldwin Park, circa Summer 2017
Danza Azteca, Placita Olvera, circa Summer/Fall 2017
Jumper (?) Over the 101, Los Angeles, circa Spring 2018
Fishing, undisclosed location, circa Summer 2018
Floating Talent, San Francisco, circa Fall 2018
Through the Backdrop, El Monte, circa Fall 2018
Airport Terminal, Ontario, circa Spring 2019
1 am chicken nugget run, Times Square, circa Spring 2019
Self Portrait, Grays Papaya 8th Street Manhattan, circa Spring 2019
A Real Fur Hat, a New York cafe, circa Spring 2019
Giving Directions, Kipps Bay Manhattan, circa Spring 2019
Bargain Hunting, Manhattan thrift shop, circa Spring 2019
Break Dancer, Mt. SAC, circa Spring 2019
Fallen, Mt. SAC, circa Spring 2019
Break Dancing, Mt. SAC, circa Spring 2019
Journalists, Sacramento, circa Spring 2019
Delinquents, Sacramento railroad museum, circa Spring 2019
Air Gun, West Covina, circa Spring, 2019
Barber’s Chair, Virgil Village, circa Spring 2019
Cleaning Clippers, Virgil Village, circa Spring 2019
Showing Respect, The Marathon Clothing, circa Spring 2019
Boys in Blue, The Marathon Clothing, circa Spring 2019
A Brief Introduction, The Marathon Clothing, circa Spring 2019
May Day Drums, Los Angeles, circa Spring 2019
Huelga, Los Angeles, Circa Spring 2019
Bandera, Los Angeles, circa spring 2019
Mujer, Los Angeles, circa Spring 2019
Hearing Poetry, Mt. SAC, circa Spring 2019
Strike, Mt. SAC, circa Spring 2019
Juggler, Mt. SAC, circa Spring 2019
Survivor, Mt. SAC, circa Spring 2019
Victory, Bakersfield, circa Spring 2019
Softball in the Rain, Bakersfield, circa Spring 2019
Practice in the Parking Lot, Mt. SAC, circa Spring 2019
Dibujero, Mt. SAC, circa Summer 2019
Pacesetter, Mt. SAC, circa Summer 2019
Sage Before Sweat Lodge, Riverside, circa Summer 2019
Bubbles the Clown, San Francisco, circa Summer 2019
Contortionists, San Francisco, circa Summer 2019
Journalists, Mt. SAC, circa Summer 2019
Vendor, Los Angeles, circa Fall 2019
Worry, Los Angeles, circa Fall 2019
Muerte, Whittier, circa Fall 2019
Comeback, Mt. SAC, circa Fall 2019
Basque, Chino, circa Fall 2019
Lost, Wet, and Figuring it Out, Washington DC, circa Fall 2019
Nationals, Washington DC, circa Fall 2019
Personal Toast, Washington DC, circa Fall 2019
Restoration, Washington DC, circa Fall 2019
Duck Hunters, San Jacinto Wildlife Area, circa Fall 2019
Stomping Grounds, San Jacinto Wildlife Area, circa Fall 2019

With that goes the last shred of normalcy. Since the last photo, I have begun a forced hiatus, as has the rest of earth. Home has become a cage when it once was just a bed. A tumbling sense of chaos begins to settle in at around the second week or so, leaving me with an uncomfortable complacency. Like the first bad trip in high school, there may be nothing left to do but strap in and watch as your body begins to squirm and function of its own accord. In the immortalized words of the good Doctor Thompson, “no sympathy for the devil… buy the ticket, take the ride.” The terrible ride…

Until the next gig, here’s to hoping I come out of this one alive.

Yours truly after this all-nighter. 4/12/2020, 6:42 AM