Every photographer peddles us their choices. There’s nothing democratic about it; we get what we get. They have already chosen everything from the subject and the stage to the presentation and, in certain respects, the audience. Perhaps no photographers recognize this power more than those whose work falls in the overlap between street and travel.
Carlos de los Angeles — New York-born and today among Orlando’s finest — is one such photographer. Studying for a master’s in occupational therapy, he’s something of a hobbyist, but a darn good one. “I’m not out there trying to make photosets or staging any kind of composition,” he points out. “Not everything I share has to be a masterpiece. It just has to be a piece of me… I’m shooting for myself, and what you’re going to get is just my life and my travels.”
Why succumb to one-dimensional expectations when you’re only working with your own?
De los Angeles often shares on his Instagram, where he styles himself as losangelesnoir. On the one hand, it’s a proper nod to the dark tonality, deep shadows, and moody, high contrast vibe of his visuals. He pushes for a dramatic and cinematic aesthetic that wouldn’t be out of place in a contemporary noir film. On the other hand, a noir descriptor seems totally at odds with his images’ colorful inner lives, vibrant and lively moments “capturing…culture on an honest street level.”
It must be a combination of editing style and, undoubtedly, the exuberance he brings to his craft when his images seem to glow, lit from within like one of those battery-powered paintings. It doesn’t matter if he’s working with classic urban and street settings, impromptu portraits, and local establishments, or scenic adventures in nature. Conflicting elements may create a bit of tension, but it only ever works in their favor.
The moment a photo gets captured, the swirling reality that was, becomes only a picture that now is. Images and galleries that retain a bit of that complexity that tries to incorporate competing details come closer to showing reality.
It isn’t merely a matter of waiting for a moment of perfect visual and cognitive juxtaposition, though. “I try to have my camera on me as much as I can because my thought process behind taking photographs is very spontaneous.” De los Angeles produces work with an almost journalistic edge while avoiding the limitations and complications photojournalism entails. After all, he does shoot from a personal perspective. Instead, he is motivated and guided by dedication, passion, and love. He recounts the circumstances that led to what he considers one of his best shots:
“[It] happened at a wet market in the streets of Quiapo, an old neighborhood in Manila. A week before, the neighborhood was struck by a homemade bomb in the Muslim district. And a week prior to that, the entire region was hit by a typhoon, and there was still remnants of flooding everywhere.”
“But I think one image I captured of two siblings wading barefoot through the flooded market just blocks from the bombing, smiling at each other with pure joy in their faces, really sums up the resilience of the Filipino people.”
It would be impossible to purposefully wait for a moment like that to land in your lap. You could never predict it. It is, however, entirely possible to recognize the living, honest truth of a moment if you care to. De los Angeles strives tirelessly to do that in his creative work whenever possible. He realizes “moments…where I happen to stumble and immerse myself in the peoples’ daily lives are really special,” but also goes out of his way to make sure those smaller stories are shared.
Earlier this year, he published a photo essay with downtown Orlando publication Bungalower, covering the Vietnamese community of Mills50. While finishing up the occupational therapy degree, he’s been putting together a collection to highlight Orlando businesses “that have withstood the test of time throughout the Disney era and the development/cultural boom.”
He may be a proud New Yorker, with a Californian name, but de los Angeles was brought up in Florida, and his heart and art are very much in Orlando.
“Our community is so tight-knit and so talented…everyone is so supportive of each other. It’s such a great place to test a project because people are genuinely hyped on your work. People gotta wake up and acknowledge the talent that comes out of here… Fuck that Florida man narrative, flip that shit on its head. I’m just as proud of growing up in the swamps.”