For 2010, Rafael Cardenas set two personal goals for himself for 2010: write a short story once a week and to take a picture once a day, while learning photography techniques and mastering his cameras settings along the way. Nine months later, what started as a personal endeavor for Cardenas has morphed into its own entity. His Canon D10 is always within an arms reach, ready to seize the moment in front of him at 1/250th of a second. People going on about their day, landmarks and moments of serenity are just some of the subjects Cardenas has captured since starting his photogRAFA:365 project.
For Cardenas, taking pictures isn’t about trying to document a life style or to capture specific images that will garner him notoriety, It’s about the love and passion that photographers have for the art and for securing moments in time with the simple click of a button. An avid lover of photography since he could remember, Cardenas has always gone back and forth between photography, amounting in thousands of photographical memories. In an age and time when social media and point and shoot cameras have changed the dynamics of this art, making it easily accessible to anyone, Cardenas has managed to distinguish himself from others by using this new influx of technology to his advantage. Using a combination of YouTube, internet queries, books and ingenuity, Cardenas continually fine tunes his photography skills by testing, applying and understanding new techniques.
Through the months he has excelled in streamlining his pic a day routine, downloading photos and narrowing down his selection as he views his day’s work while drinking an ice cold beer. He remains conscious of not repeating himself, reactions from fans and what he is still feeling on that day. From there he will do some light editing and post the image online, he shares it on Facebook and sometimes on Twitter. Thus far he has accumulated thousands of pictures and roughly 250 gigabytes of memory. Even when Cardenas has a slow, uneventful day, he still captures the mediocrity of it. Cardenas grew up as a middle child in East L.A. (off Rowan and Blanchard) after his parents moved to the U.S. in 1974 from Pihuamo, Jalisco.
He attended both Roosevelt and Garfield High finishing up his high school diploma at one of the various continuation schools in the East side. His love for literature, theater, the arts and Hip-Hop greatly influenced his life at various points. Whether it was taking theater classes at East Los Angeles College, traveling and performing in Europe, creating flow-etry at back yard shows, with “Slowrider” touring clubs in California or working as a paralegal, Cardenas is a modern day renaissance man. “I’ve never known what I’ve wanted to do for the rest of my life, but I’ve always known what I’ve wanted in the moment,” Cardenas explained.
His music, writing and photography, much like Cardenas himself, are a serious of juxtapositions. His quick wits, sense of humor and barrio intellect are visible in his photography. “I grew up in awe of photographers like Ansel Adams; he was the first photographer I could see an image of and know it was him. In my early days of college I discovered Joseph Rodriguez and his images of East LA gang culture. I was also affected by the reality of his journalistic/investigative style and his collection of images of transvestite lifestyle in Mexico. After I was done with school, I discovered the works of Sebastian Salgado. He spends years on location getting a feel for a country and its people and produces flawless and timeless photographs,” Cardenas said.
Cardenas photographic eye has taking him all over Los Angeles, capturing life as it happens at all sorts of hours of the day and night. His versatility and commitment to his project have gotten his pictures and stories published in Citizen L.A., the LA Weekly blog, Café Magazine and other local publications. His artwork will be on display at Eastside Luv for the month of October with an opening reception on Oct. 2nd from 5-8 p.m. and he will also be included in a Day of the Dead exhibit at the opening for the Vincent Price Gallery at East Los Angeles College. He also plans to expand his work by creating interactive slide shows with audio, to create narratives with his pictures. You can find his work on facebook and see his work at eastsider writer. Until then, you can catch Cardenas walking the streets of LA, camera in hand, capturing moments that never existed to begin with.