ART: Picture me Vollin’
Featured in Freestyle Volume 03 2007. Story by Cristian Diaz. Photography by El Volo
The term “never judge a book by its cover” springs to mind when meeting with Volo (which is a Spanglish-English slang name for boulevard), for the first time. At a distant stare he throws all the signals of your template South-Central Chicano, whos ready to bitch slap you side ways at the slightest hint of disrespect. There is a wince at the corners of his trademark locs as I steadily approach the ridiculously dumped Cadillac he's leaning on, when a humbling and down-to-Earth voice emerges from the goatee covered mouth he tries so hard to keep shut. As what once seemed a doomed scenario of awkward glances and vocal timing unhesitatingly flows from start to end with exchanges of only positive reinforcement and cadence.
For a guy who only took one photography class in college, Volo seems to have come a long way from just taking pictures at local car shows for himself. Essentially a Latino Califa photographer, he has made a career of perfectly capturing the moral fibre of his beloved L.A. streets with an unmistakable style of “urban photography” that seizes the ‘real’ beauty of the hood’s lifestyle and culture. “For me, I’ve been into photography since I was a kid, especially black and white photos, but I was more into looking at photography when I was younger. Though when I was finally given a camera I liked taking pictures and being creative with it, even though it was the most basic kind of camera. From there I just started reading up on photography by visiting libraries, and going on the internet to learn about the lenses, aperture and shutter speeds” Volo recalls.
A talented visionary in his field, Volo is sometimes mislabelled as only a photographer, where others attach his methods and work closer to that of a true artist.
“Being a photographer your definitely an artist, you know if you got that artistic eye you can see something and visualise how you want it to come out on film or on your camera, thats where that artistic side comes through. You can look at a photograph and just sit there and examine it, see how the shadows are, see how the things in it just correlate with each other.”
However all seem to concur when defining his style of art as Volo explains “I definitely call my photography “urban photography” because most of what I shoot is derived from the urban setting, primarily of people in the low riding car scene, Latino/Chicano culture and African-American culture. Also, most of my photography is on or near the streets of Southern California (L.A. area). Very little of my photography is shot in a studio.”
Now an almost 10 year pro, Volo first began his professional work with Street low magazine, where his first shoot got him on the mags front cover and with it, instant recognition. He then later moved onto Lowrider magazine where his worked with celebrity rappers Mack 10, The Game, Ice Cube and Xzibit to name a few, along with other Chicano rappers like Kid Frost and Capone. However his work seems to gather the most amount of attention when he focuses the lenes on the sexy-ass women in all their ghetto beauty.
“Well, when I shoot a celebrity that is the most fun. But when it comes to the ladies, I can’t complain!” Volo amusingly tells.
Besides being accomplished with rappers and the ladies, Lowriders are his other main subjects of inspiration. Volo admits a life long addiction to the rides as he moved from where he grew up, the bay area, down to So-Cal just to get a better exposure for his passion.
“Photography has been part of my lifestyle but Lowriding is the other half. In the bay area they got their low riders and some car clubs, but it just wasn’t how I really saw low riding, you know a lot of it comes from the L.A. area, they’re the trend setters and that was really just a motivation for me to get down to So-Cal and cruise wit those riders down there. To me, the low riding lifestyle is a way of living. It’s not just what you drive or how you dress, but it’s in your blood. It’s how you feel inside. Some people are into customising cars, but with low riding, it is not just a hobby, it is a lifestyle. For most low riders, it’s a positive, family-oriented thing… that is the way it should be”.
And Volo had absolutely no hesitation in explaining his latest ride when asked. “Right now, I have a black 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham with four pumps, eight batteries and a sound system. It is my fourth Cadillac and my sixth low rider ride I have owned. I also like to ride my low rider bicycle too, a 26-inch frame with the ape-hanger handlebars. All of the low riders I have ever owned were stock and I fixed them up with my own time and money. Except this Cadillac I have now. It was fixed up a little already, but I have changed some things on it to make it more Volo style!”
After spending a few hours with Volo it becomes evident that his greatest asset lies within his passion and enthusiasm for the craft. Much like the people and streets that he shoots, Volo encompasses the fabric that cannot be designed nor torn, it’s a transparent charm that is all about being real and keeping it that way.
With a quick check of the settling sun’s position from the corner of his eye, he initiates the eager retreat to the Lowrider where they will both collaborate on a seamless So-Cali cruise late into the night. Ignition roaring, switches popping, I step up and ask him my final question, “so what’s the future for Mr El Volo?”
“I really don’t know. We will see what the future holds for Mr. Volo! Right now, I don’t do photography as a full-time job. I love doing photography, so even if I do not make a lot of money doing it, that is OK, I will still be doing photography for a long time. And I will be low riding until death! So when I die, put my coffin on some Dayton’s!”
To find out more about El Volo, visit www.elvolo.com
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