Angela Boatwright has lived in Los Angeles for the past four years and has made a big mark on the city in a her brief time here. Los Punks is her first directorial debut, a documentary about the current South Central and East LA punk scene. L.A. TACO’s Erwin Recinos was fortunate to get an interview with Boatwright to talk about becoming an Angeleno, her film, and most importantly photography.
Introduce yourself to the LATACO readers. Who you are and what you do?
Hi, I’m Angela. I’m a photographer and documentary director.
How long have you been living in Los Angeles and what brought you here?
I moved to Los Angeles in May of 2012. I knew that I needed to make a change after 19 years in NYC; my friend Scott offered me a sublet in L.A. so I took the chance and came out west!
You directed a documentary, Los Punks, and it was featured at Slamdance Film Festival this past January 2016. Tell our L.A. TACO readers about the movie?
Los Punks is about the backyard punk scene in Boyle Heights, East Los Angeles, and South Central L.A. The film focuses predominantly on four individuals and through meeting them you learn about the scene.
Why Los Punks? Why tell their story to the masses and shine light on a scene that has flourished under the radar?
As you know there are a lot of punk scenes in Los Angeles. And a handful of heavily populated ska scenes as well. Los Punks focuses mainly on the street punks that thrive in the neighborhoods mentioned above. When I arrived here in Los Angeles I was looking for like-minded people, after a bit of research I went to my first show and was blown away by the passion and energy. I fell in love with that scene immediately and instantly felt comfortable with all of the people involved.
This being your first documentary film, what did you learn about yourself during the documentation/filming of this project?
This was probably the biggest learning experience of my entire life – which is a good thing, of course. You never want to stay in your comfort zone for too long. As a photographer I’ve evolved into being a pretty serious micro-manager. Documentary work in my opinion is no place for an overly devoted micro manager. You have to see the bigger picture. And lots of things that you want to happen don’t necessarily work out for a million reasons that are almost always out of your control.
Do you have a favorite taco spot here in Los Angeles that you frequent?
Not yet! One of the home owners that allows shows to be thrown in his front yard is a hell of a BBQ master however. He’s called East L.A. Raider Dave. He’s an awesome cook and an old school backyard punk, too! He’ll be opening his own taco truck soon, in the meantime he sells at various Boyle Heights events and is available for private catering. You can find him here: https://www.facebook.com/EastLaBBQCo/?fref=ts
I discovered you were in LA in 2013 for a book signing of Skin Graff at the now closed 33Third graffiti shop. How did you get onboard with this project?
While living in NYC I worked at a graffiti based magazine called Mass Appeal for many years. Mass Appeal editor Sacha Jenkins produced Skin Graff and brought me on board.
How was it working with your long time friend Estevan Oriol on this project?
I was shooting all of the portraits on the East Coast and Estevan shot everything on the West Coast so we actually didn’t physically cross paths while working on Skin Graff. Estevan hosted some really cool events for the book here in Los Angeles, by that time I was living here and got to attend which was awesome.
Do you still shoot film? Most importantly why or why not? What camera and film type do you frequently use?
Absolutely, literally all of the images you see in Los Punks were shot on film, both medium format and 35mm. I’ve been taking photos since 1990 and professionally since 1997 so film feels more natural to me. I shoot with Nikon FE and FE2 cameras. I own an F3 and an F100 too. For medium format I shoot with a Contax 645AF. And occasionally I’ll break out my 4×5.
You’ve have had some great opportunities in your career as a photographer. Do you have one that has stood out from the rest? What did you learn from it.
The first one that comes to mind is getting hired to photograph Urban Outfitters catalogs in 2003. That was my first official, big time break. I shot Urban Outfitters catalogs for years – from 2003 to 2006 or so and had the opportunity to work with an amazing Los Angeles based creative agency, National Forest. I learned a lot about how to maintain a client long term and because all of the catalogs were photographed entirely with chrome film (this was before digital) I learned how to really dial in my exposure and composition, as well.
And obviously this opportunity with Vans has been my biggest break so far. It was incredibly serendipitous how Los Punks came together, from my initial relationship with Vans as a photographer to my meeting their then VP of Marketing, Doug Palladini to the East Los webisodes and of course finally to the culmination of the full length documentary. Los Punks exists only because so many tiny things happened at exactly the right time. I had an old photo agent that discouraged me from taking a particular photo job with Vans many years ago. If I had listened to them Los Punks wouldn’t have happened. I knew Vans was a great outlet for me – bottom line listen to your gut and don’t let anyone tell your otherwise. Also be prepared for the opportunities that might come your way and no job is too small if it gets you where you need to be.
If you were not a photographer what other career path would you have chosen?
A few years ago I would have liked to play guitar in a band but now, honestly, I would love to be a social worker or a teacher.
Any advice for those young budding photographers who are reading this article?
Sure, I always say this but photo school isn’t necessarily going to get you any jobs. You need to have huge balls, an awesome vision, and a serious work ethic to get yourself hired. And it’s non-stop, massive amounts of work no matter how successful you become. And if you’re in school, don’t wait for your degree – put yourself out there now!
Thanks to Angela Boatwright for doing this interview. Los Punks will be playing one night only at the Arc Light Theatre, click here to get tickets. Also, July 15th is the release of the documentary Los Punks on iTunes. For presale information click this link. Keep up with the latest news on IG @lospunksfilm.