Here Comes the Year Again


Here comes 2019! I just want to take a little time to look back.

2018 had so many memorable moments. This year definitely established my work as a photographer in a permanent way. A little bit of personal history was made. After years of producing my own shows and being in plenty of group shows I had my first solo museum show.


I am still mind blown to be able to say that my first solo show was at the Vincent price art museum at East Los Angeles College. A corner of the world where I had lots of creative moments studying theater arts in the 90’s. I was very lucky to be back at that same corner to exhibit Backyard Tableaux. Working with Pilar F. Tompkins and the staff to set up a show with only nine pieces was a perfect learning experience to lead me to the next show.

Can you believe I had two solo museum shows in one year? The second one is currently running at La Plaza De Cultura y Artes is titled, Landscapes and Land Dwellers. Seriously, there is no way to explain that show in this paragraph. With over 60 images framed and in digital media it is an enormous accomplishment. Working with Erin Curtis, Mariah Schevchuk, and Janine Vigus, we pushed this show out of our collective brains. This show is more that just my images, it was their efforts to convey themes that make this show complete. Please come out to see it. It runs through March 25, 2019.

Working with curators was an interesting lesson in how other people see my work. It was difficult at first to delegate control over my life’s work. But in the end it was cathartic to let go and let other peoples visions frame how my work is shared.

Also, currently running now is a group show at Self Help Graphics and Art called Infinite Light. I have five pieces in it that are originally from a 2017 series titled From the Holocene. I love these! Please come see.


I had some nice things said about me this year including a six page spread in the internationally distributed Digital Photo Pro magazine ( click here to read ). I had a nice review of my VPAM show in Artillery ( click here to read ). I also had a video in the new network for Spectrum News ( click here to see ). Thanks to all of ya!


Podcasts were fun as hell. The YoYoYo takes the prize for most memorable. Here are the links:
The YoYoYo Podcast -

Orale Boyle Heights -

Persistence of Sound -

LACMA (wuuut)

One of the highlights among all this was that moment that I go the letter from LACMA’s photography department asking me if I’d like to be in their permanent collection. I literally jumped out of my seat that day. Thanks go out to Eve Schillo, Assistant Curator for putting my name in the basket. This was also made possible because of my exhibit at VPAM where I first met Eve and had my favorite “photography talk” in a public stage.

What a year!

Not to mention my print from 2011 from Self Help Graphics that also made it into the LACMA collection! I now have five pieces in the permanent collection.


Enough patting myself on the back. What I didn’t do this year was create any new work. This has been the least productive year as far as adding to my personal archive. It was, yes, a busy year. But now it’s time to go back in the “studio” (the streets to me).


I have so many plans for creating new works in 2019—I can’t wait to get started! It’s way too much to include in this post so please look out for future posts.

Oh yeah, of course, working on myself is always on the agenda. A constant.

Now where are my grapes? Let’s count this down!!!

Last Days of Backyard Tableaux at VPAM

In a little tiny corner on the third floor of the Vincent Price Art Museum, nestled at the end of a long corridor, you will find these nine pieces of my work mounted between two sheets of plexiglass, each with its designated light. It's a simple, perfect display of my most current work. You have until Saturday to see this show.

Backyard Tableaux, currently on display at VPAM

Backyard Tableaux, currently on display at VPAM

The museum Hours are:
TUE: 12-4
WED: 12-4
THU: 12-7
FRI: 12-4
SAT: 12-4

It’s located on the campus of East Los Angeles College, right on the corner of East Cesar Chavez Avenue and Collegian Avenue.

Come by anytime this week.

This Saturday I will be there talking about the show in person with LA Times writer, Carolina Miranda. The walk through will start at 2pm sharp. Come hang with us.

Once this show goes down you will never see it again as it is, living in its little corner where it was made to exist.

I’m extremely proud of this show and what it means to me and my creative process. Grateful as ever to Pilar Tompkins-Rivas and the entire staff at VPAM.

I'm ready say goodbye to this show and give my complete attention to my next show at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes that opens on September 8th! Vamos!

Announcement: LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes exhibit set for September

( El Peso del Ajetreo, The Weight of the Hustle, Rafael Cardenas )
Click image to enlarge.

Save the Date! Happy to announce that I have another exhibit opening September 8, 2018. It will be at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes in downtown Los Angeles.

The show is titled Landscapes and Land Dwellers: Photography of Place by Rafael Cardenas.

In this show, along with my photos of people in the streets, I try turn my camera to the shapes of hills and streets in neighborhoods on the eastside. I focus on some of the mounds of twisty roads in City Terrace, the layers of freeways we traverse, and I frame those imperfect connections where one neighborhood end and another begins.

Landscapes and Land Dwellers is poem pieced together from the fragments of my own treks around these communities. It’s photographic palimpsest of a city pieced together in the same way.

I’ve been working on this show for a while and it kicked my butt.  There will be a lot of new photos in this show and a few from the archive that you have never seen. This exhibit has morphed into something that I’m really proud of and I look forward to sharing with Los Angeles.

Save the Date! September 08, 2018. LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes!

In the meantime come see my exhibit at VPAM

All the way from East LA College: VPAM, The Little Theater and Me

When I dove into photography on January 1st of 2010, hung over from a New Year’s Eve celebration, I could not have imagined that my work would show in a museum within the same decade. Maybe after a year of shooting I started to imagine that one day----maybe after I died----someone would sort through my work and present a show in my memory. All I could do to ensure that was to keep documenting like a madman.

Things seemed to snowball pretty quickly from that day forward. I stopped drinking. I kept shooting. I presented my own exhibits as much as I could. And now here we are in 2018 and my first museum show opens this Saturday at the Vincent Price Art Museum.

For this show titled, Rafael Cardenas: Backyard Tableaux, I worked with the staff at VPAM to select photos from a series  I shot in the summer of 2016. I asked anyone that was having a celebration in their backyard to allow me to come in and document the event. I wanted to explore that space that we hold so close in our memories. 

I shot all these events with the same 50mm Sigma and without flash. What resulted are images that carry the energy of that day forward. We are exhibiting nine images, scenes with colorful night lights and vibrant daytime colors. This is an ongoing series, one that I hope to add to for the rest of my photography life.

These images also take my work into a different direction. You will not see any of the black and whites that I am known for in this show. I hope to explore this color side of my work a lot more.

I was talking to a friend last week and he was telling me that my career as an artist actually started in the 90’s when I started to do theater. It was then that I started to grow out of being a neighborhood kid with no concept of a larger world and into a critical thinker. It was there on that corner of the campus of East LA College (where VPAM now stands) that the The Little Theater once stood. It was a tiny repurposed army bungalow.  My theatre training taught me how to think of three things that define a moment:

Where are you coming from?
What are you here to do?
Where are you going?

I try to share images that have a visual narrative of time and place. Theater taught me that. So it’s fitting that I am now having this show in the same corner of the world. Literally.

I hope that you can come out to opening night this Saturday April 28th from 5-7pm. If not you can check museum hours and visit the exhibit from this weekend till July 28th.

I want to thank Pilar Tompkins Rivas and the VPAM staff for their time and dedication in making this exhibit a reality. Shout out to ELAC theater and administration staff as well.

The Bat Dudes from Aztlan

Chicano Batman, left to right, Carlos Arevalo, Eduardo Arenas and Gabriel Villa (drums), Bardo Martinez

Chicano Batman, left to right, Carlos Arevalo, Eduardo Arenas and Gabriel Villa (drums), Bardo Martinez

It's no secret that I love this band. I've been listening to them non-stop since I first heard their soulful sound. It's a sound that takes me way back and at the same time it makes me feel hopeful about the future. 

I was glad that they allowed me to shoot their LA shows last September at The Fonda. I don't get out to see too many shows anymore so it was a real pleasure to be in the mix of something so full of today's energy and movement. These guys put on a great show, in front of sold out houses, for two nights in a row. I had to miss the third show because I was having an art opening of my own on that night. 

But, enough said. I put a selection of the photos into the video below. Enjoy! I suggest you play it in full screen HD.

Visit their website for more:

Please share if you care.

2018 Week 4

I was on the road a few days out of this week. I took pics all along the 5 freeway then back in LA.

2018 Week 3

Pasadena car on the tracks, Huntington Beach family youth, and Rafa Esparza at MOCA Geffen PST LA/LA.

2018 Week 2

Week two consists of only a couple days of shooting. I went out shooting in the rain and at a PST LA/LA performance by Raul Baltazar.

Fifty weeks to go in 2018!

2018 Week 1

Let's run a check: Is everybody in? Welcome to 2018!

It looks like this year will not have any downtime. I usually kick off late in January, yawning and stretching, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes. Not this year. We've already been busy with plans and projects to nurture and grow. 

This year I'm breaking down the photos into 52 weeks. Feel free to share and ask your friends to follow me on the 'gram. Thanks! 

Here is week one in a slideshow.

Solo Show at VPAM 2018

VPAM Photo: Devin Sarno

VPAM Photo: Devin Sarno

It's hard to believe that I can say these words: I have been invited to have a solo exhibit at VPAM in the spring of 2018. 

The show's theme and title are still being fine tuned but I've been given the green light to announce it. I'm looking forward to working with Pilar Thompkins-Rivas and the team at the museum to develop a strong experience for visitors.

The Vincent Price Art Museum has been on my radar since I was a student at East LA College over 20 years ago. Back then I was a theater student on campus and VPAM was inside a tiny building amongst the bungalows. The Little Theater, as it was aptly named and where I performed in many plays, sat at the end of a small parking lot where the new VPAM now stands in exclamation. 

Can't wait to share more when I know more.

Manuel Lopez lines up.


Manuel Lopez is an East LA native that studied painting at the Chicago Institute of Art. We met at a party in 2010 when I first started posting a photo a day on my old Eastsider website. He would always comment on my photos about how the images kept him connected to home. 

After graduating from college he returned to East LA and he has been painting, producing work and developing his approach and style. He's been included in a few group shows. We've become friends and have been part of a drawing group together. I always admired his ability to give personality to a line in his artwork. His scabrous lines tell stories that I relate to. 

One day in April, I asked him to allow me to follow him with a camera while he drew the hillsides that we both grew up surrounded by. I wanted to attempt making my first video essay. I then interviewed him in my home for the audio. 

Below is the video that we made. It's pretty long for the current norm on online attentions spans. I like to think of it as a conversation with Manuel. A 15 minute conversation wherein you are an active listener. Feel free to leave comments on the YouTube page.


Las dos aqui, regresando de allá.

Irene Diaz and Carolyn Cardoza on Broadway, LA.

I had been playing the I Love You Madly EP on rotation for at least a month when I first bumped into Irene Diaz and Carolyn Cardoza at Eastside Luv. I fanned out and took a photo of them that day and have been taking photos of them since. 

Recently, they were in Mexico recording songs for a new album. This project is being Produced at BabyJesus Hood Studios with Demian and Alejandro Jimenez in Coyoacan, and is set to be released in 2018. Seems so far away.

When they came back to the states I invited them to meet me downtown so that we can catch up and snag some a few photos to document their return.

We talked about the cobble stone streets that they were beginning to get accustomed to and how now they miss that feeling under their feet. We talked food, coffee and donuts; three things they are not shy to be addicted to. 

And of course, immigration issues came up. Borders....., lines on the ground that can't stop music from traveling. 

Sandy Rodriguez in color. Studio visit.

From her website: 
"Her paintings capture moments of transformation in the social and cultural landscape of Los Angeles, with a focus on themes of the persistence of place, activism, and physical and cultural regeneration." (

After a long drive west, passed everything that I see daily, I park my car on a quiet nicely aligned street with lots of green grass and neatly painted homes. Sandy Rodriguez comes cruising down the street on her bike and waves at me. It was a hot LA day.

We walk into a backyard where her studio rests nicely next to a cool and inviting swimming pool. We talk about art and "la vida." 

Getting to know her and her process we spent a couple of hours drinking iced water while we shared stories. I asked her if I could take some photos before I left.

Heading back to my side of town I kept thinking about how I was inspired by the fire in her paintings. I decided that I wanted to post her photos in color. I added a little tint to these images because this is how i saw them in my head.

Rafael Esparza with his hands in the mud.

On an overcast day in January, I made my way to the LA River adjacent Bowtie Project where Rafael Esparza and his crew were getting ready to mold one of the early batches of adobe bricks for his latest installation that will be part of the Whitney Biennial. He loan me his pair of Nike Cortez so I wouldn't get my new Adidas dirty. I rode in the back of a pick-up truck to gather buckets of water from the LA River and watched as dirt/water and hay, molded by wood, were transformed into bricks by the crew.

Production was cut short due to rain but they went on to make over 3,000 adobe bricks that all got shipped to New York for the show. This grand task was completed with the help of Esparza's friends and supporters that volunteered assistance over a period of a couple months.

I put my palm on one of the bricks to infuse it with my energy. On that night a lone coyote decided to do the same thing and placed his paw print on a few.

Here is a complete slideshow of that day in photos.

Sal Lopez at LATC

This is one of those, "I was fortunate to be called to shoot..." moments.

I've been watching Sal do theater since the 1994 production of 'Bandido' at the Taper. Since then I have seen him in numerous shows and films.  If you haven't been out to the theater I hope you give it a shot sometime. Sal Lopez and the Latino Theater Company continue to create this kind magic for the public to enjoy.

I was called to shoot the marketing photos for the current production of 'La Olla,' now playing at LATC. A farcical romp based on 'The Pot of Gold' by the ancient Roman playwright, Plautus, adapted by Evelina Fernandez. These are my favorite shots. #1 above. #2 below.

Click here to get tickets to this show.

Also, click on any image for a better view.

The vicissitudes of Ariana Joelle Kaufman Petrojvic

Wherein, I introduce you to the world of, Ariana.

I met her in the magical days of hanging out with Killsonic, not sure how far back that was. Maybe it was 2009.
When I first met her she was introduced as a Petrojvic.
When she hired me to do her headshots and she asked me to use the name Kaufman.
Her middle name is Joelle.

As I discovered all her names I also discovered all of her talents and her many faces.
I don't know what else to say because she defies a simple explanation.

I will say that I hope to continue to photograph her metamorphosis and growth.

Click on the links below and enjoy:

1. Short Film - 'Anita'

2. Music Video - Mystery Bau, 'Twisted'

3. Music Video - Mystery Bau, 'Bite It'

Click on any image for a better view.