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The art of hanging out

Selfportrait © Gregory Bojorquez

Gregory Bojorquez , born in Los Angeles in 1972, where he still lives and works today, and grew up in its East side. He started in photography portraying his friends and neighbors. He became the documentarian of the LA's street gangs world after gaining their trust. Since LA Weekly discovered his photographs of the lives of people at the margins, he started to portray famous people such as Snoop Dogg and Mike Tyson being published in Rolling Stone and FHM magazine. Bojorquez's photographs combine all aspects of the culture and life in his hometown; his motifs are found between the worlds of Hollywood and the streets of Los Angeles. He has portrayed artists such as Oliver Stone, Jay Z or Eminem. 

Under the title "Frame Life", his third solo exhibition shows sworks from over the last 20 years. Both his black-and-white and his color photographs were captured using only analog cameras. It opens on the 3rd of June at the Cologne based Galerie Bene Taschen (former Hardhitta Gallery).

Why did you decide to work in photography?

Ever since I was a kid, I always had an interest in photos and movies. As a High School student, I took some classes and was better than average. Later on in my twenties, I took film classes at the local College and the study of film motivated me to take photos again. I won a local contest in 1996 and the prize was $5000. From there I started snapping many more photos and by 1997, I stopped working part time jobs and pursued photography full time as a career. 

You said “What good art can do – it causes to make you wanna do more.” What does art mean to you? 

When something good comes out a roll of film or a CF card, I get some kind of satisfaction. It’s a good feeling and it makes me want to repeat and create again to get that satisfaction. Kind of like a drug.

What do you look for when you make a photography? 

I look for subject matter that’s interesting; obviously. I look for basic things like composition and colors that look good together when shooting in color; basic things like that. These days, with so many cameras and cameras on every device; it’s hard to find something that is unique or special. In the 90’s, when someone had a camera, people would comment, “You have a camera” in some kind of amazement. So now, I’m trying to photograph things that are not photographed by 10 other people. 

Do you think it is possible to be objective through photography? 

Yes. Why not? 

You are presenting the exhibition “Frame life”. How personal is this frame? 

The frame is everything. Respect everything inside the frame. In these days, most people are beginning with digital. People are shooting 100’s of photos of the same photo. In old times, when a person learned on a 4x5 view camera, everything in the ground glass had to be right or else the cost of the one image would be more because of more film and processing and proofing. Maybe the old way trained a person’s eye more than the new way of shooting 100’s of photos to edit out a handful. In the film days, I would shoot entire jobs with a few rolls of film. Sometimes, depending on the job, I would say, “If you can’t get the job done with 100 photos, something must be wrong”. 

What could you explain us about the selection of works featured in this exhibition? 

The selection spans time. Most of the work is from situations when I was hanging out. There is a famous writer named Gay Talese who called his style of journalism, “The art of hanging out”. I read his description of his style in a magazine and felt that’s what I’m doing with photography, the art of hanging out. 

You work in colour and also in black and white. How do you decide which option is better? 

That’s easy. If something looks good in color, the colors in the frame look good together. B&W is way more forgiving if the colors do not go well together. If you see old films from the 30’s through 50’s in B&W, there is often bright hotter than shit light that you can never get away with in color. Color can maybe be more of a challenge. 

Who are the photographers you have as an artistic reference? 

My first referenced photographers were Bruce Davidson, and Diane Arbus. In recent times, I would have to say William Eggleston is a favorite.

Is there any photograph that you would have loved to make? Which one? 

That’s a tough one. I would say the Last Supper with Jesus and his friends. If the question is about an existing photograph, it would maybe the cover photo from the Beatles’s Abbey Road album.

Could you explain us a memory from your childhood? 

When I was around 7 or 8 years old, there was no inter-net and no Wikipedia to look people up. I would look through books and magazines around my parents home and I would continuously take the book or magazine to my Mom and ask if the people in the photos were dead. In frustration, my Mom yelled at me, “Why are you so fascinated if all these people are dead”? It was something that I really got stuck on at that time. A photo lives on and on but we all have the same end. In photos, we never die; we become immortal.

An interview by Juan Carlos Romero
Photo by © Gregory Bojorquez
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