Lula speaks

Exclusive Interview with Estevan Oriol

As the Asian Distributor of Upper Playground, Lula Apparel had the privilege to sit down with renowned photographer/director Estevan Oriol, on May 29.

During this revealing interview, Estevan talked about his family, his relationship with Upper Playground, what inspires his art, advice for budding photographers and much more.

Estevan Oriol’s road to success as a renowned photographer and director has been filled with many twists and turns, but his hard work, dedication to his craft and natural artistic gifts has made the colorful journey a huge success.

After working as a nightclub bouncer and beginning as a tour manager for House of Pain and Cypress Hill, his dad gave him an old 35mm Minolta camera so Estevan could document his unique life experiences. And did he ever. In touring for about 13 years, he visited 44 countries and crisscrossed America multiple times. In the process, Estevan took more than 100,000 pictures – covering everything from behind-the-scenes looks at hip-hop concerts to lowriding culture, inner-city life and beautiful women from all cultures.

Although Estevan’s father, Eriberto Oriol, is also a photographer, he never imagined that Estevan would follow in his footsteps. And although they share an artistic eye for capturing glimpses of life in the way most of us don’t see them, they also have their own unique styles. Having a unique style is something that Estevan says is what separates the true artists from the wannabes.

Today, still shooting with black-and-white film, Estevan shoots for a number of publications. His book, L.A. Women, was published last fall, he collaborates with Upper Playground, has his own Joker Brand clothing line with Mister Cartoon, and he has directed about 30 music videos. As a photographer, director, businessman and family man, he sees new opportunities each day … and he can’t imagine ever slowing down.
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LULA: Tell us about your family.
EO: I have a wife and four kids. I drop my kids off at school and then work 10-12 hours per day. Weekends are family time.

LULA: Tell us about how you started with Upper Playground.
EO: Matt Revelli, the CEO, wrote me an e-mail, telling me he was interested in my photography. Upper Playground is like a family, so it’s been cool working with them.

LULA: Do you shoot some of your photography specifically for T-shirt designs?
EO: No, everything is pulled from our archives; if I turn in 20 designs, Matt picks maybe 15.

LULA: How much time have you spent in Asia?
EO: I have been to Beijing and Shanghai, and I’ve visited 13 cities in Japan.

LULA: Why do you think your art appeals to the Asian market?
EO: I have no idea … all I can say is I’m happy and grateful.

LULA: Would you give different advice for Asian youth who want to become streetlife photographers than you would give to American youth with the same desire?
EO: No, because even though cultures might be different, they share lots of the same things. So I say “respect where the art form comes from – you can be influenced by certain things and people, but make it your own.”

LULA: If you go to Taiwan, what would you like to do?
EO: I think it would be cool to do a show with Yone there. We like to shoot the girls from one city and then show those photographs in the next city we go to.

LULA: Do you research your subject matter before a shoot?
EO: No, if you’re really a creative person, you can improvise … and you need to go with the flow.

LULA: Tell us how you learned your art.
EO: My father gave me an old-school Minolta, and when you looked through the viewfinder, there were two needles that needed to match up to get the focus right. That was my photography lesson.

LULA: What have you and your father, Eriberto, collaborated on?
EO: We did a show together a few years ago in Shepherd Fairey’s gallery. We’re doing another next year. Knowing my dad is 68-years-old and still running around taking pictures inspires me.

LULA: What makes you happy?
EO: Getting more work, going places with the family, traveling, my cars and motorcycle, low riding … and just creating more projects.

LULA: What scares you?
EO: Not knowing when my next job is going to be.

LULA: What’s next?
EO: More book projects. Brazil in October … shooting street culture. Keeping our movement alive, creating new products. It’s a hustle.

Read full interview here.