A native of Los Angeles’ Westside, Estevan Oriol (b. 1967, Los Angeles, California, U.S.) worked as a bouncer at several local hip hop clubs in the late 1980s. After befriending rising local music stars Cypress Hill and House of Pain, he began traveling with the bands as tour manager in 1992 and documenting his experience in photographs. About the same time, he met a fellow lowrider car aficionado who went by the name of Mister Cartoon and by 1995 the two were business partners in the apparel line Joker Brand Clothing. As the line grew more successful and Oriol began to direct videos for musicians such as Cypress Hill, Xzibit, Eminem and Blink-182, he and Mister Cartoon expanded their partnership as part of SA (Soul Assassins) Studios, working across a broad range of disciplines, including feature films, commercials, music, fine art and fashion.
As a photographer, Oriol largely works with film and classic cameras, such as the Pentax 67, to create high-contrast, black-and-white and color-saturated images. Although Oriol has photographed many international subjects, such as Tokyo Bosozoku motorcycle gangs and favela life in Brazil, he and his work are decidedly Angeleno and his portraits of Los Angeles’ women, musicians, lowrider cars, Cholos, gang members, graffiti writers and other characters provide a unique record of the city’s street culture over the past 30 years. In 2020, he directed LA Originals, a film that documents his long friendship and collaboration with Mister Cartoon.
Self-portrait, c. 1990s. Photo © Estevan Oriol.