Matt Lara

Snaps
  • Coachella Weekend in Palm Springs

    I have my own mixed feelings about Coachella. The crowds of people on some substance or another. The problematic ownership at the top. The cost of it all. I know there are people who really love it. I'm not sure I'm one of those people. Personal feelings aside, I followed my curiosity when I had the chance to shoot a couple of events in Palm Springs during the first Coachella weekend, including the YSL Beauty Station. This was a pop-up shop installed on an empty plot of desert land off Highway 111 in Cathedral City. I know rather little about the beauty industry and/or makeup products. But it turns out the pop-up was a massive hit for YSL Beauty as well as the many, many, many social media folks who came out in droves to check it out.

    I shot a few more events that weekend, and got to see the power of social media at work. I've been aware of just how influential the social media influencer is for some time now. I know people of the non-millenial mindset try to shrug them off, thinking of them as just silly and selfie obsessed. I have to say there is a lot more sophistication behind the influencer machine these days. Gone are the selfie arms, and selfie sticks for that matter. I saw pro photographers and camera crews. I saw some really well-crafted interactive events that were truly very impressive. The influencer crowd is going to be here for quite some time.

    With the influencers came...everyone else? I'm not really sure who is an influencer anymore, to be honest. All I know is that for your typical, generally curious photographer, Coachella weekend brings out the fashionistas and they who seek to be photographed. A few street portraits at the YSL Beauty Station:

    Some of my photos were featured here at the BizBash website.

    My photography website.

    My Instagram.

  • Street Shooting in Downtown Pomona

    As I said in my previous post, I'm trying to shoot more between clients this month. This area has a sort of classic small town feel, and has been making a big comeback in recent years. Still, not much was happening during this day. It felt a little empty and many of my shots were missing the human element.

    I don't know what it is, but I have a hard time doing any kind of street photography around where I live. Maybe because I am too familiar. Drop me off in the middle of New York City, or another place where I am a stranger among millions and I'm fine running around with my camera all day. I was born in Pomona, and even though I hardly ever go downtown I still feel weird shooting there.

    These reflection shots was the one that struck the most that day. I'm continually inspired by Vivian Maier's vast body of work, only she never seemed to be bothered by shooting in her own locales.

    My Instagram.

    My photography site.

  • the changing seasonal light

    I'm not at all a fan of Standard Time, but I love the way the light shifts this time of year. I just wish the days would last a bit longer so that we could enjoy them more.

    I took my camera out for a walk this afternoon into the waning golden time hours. The light was warm, and made even more amber by the SoCal skies choked with smoke. (For many people, life is a literal hell right now.) The light was so beautiful, except all of a sudden it was evening, then immediately nighttime. Little light to be had.

    It's a good time of year for me to curl up with a book and disappear, but in fact I'm out there working more than I have been so far this fall. Many shoots and events for different clients. I mostly make images now, and I have to fight my own urges to just nest and not worry about it unless it's for a client.

    The shifting light keeps me going back out for more each day.

  • A Verdant Spring to Lift My Spirits

    As much as I want to be the go-getter type, I realize that this moment in my life is not about achievements or getting things done. Coming out of a big family tragedy like I have means my day consists of getting up, doing the work I need to get done for the day, and making sure I'm keeping a slower pace. I'm lucky to have the space to do so.

    The green all around me has inspired me. A few weeks of steady rain in Southern California (a brief, but necessary winter around these parts) have transformed a normally dry landscape into a verdant one. I'm old enough to remember when Spring actually felt like Spring around here. So to see it brings me such joy.

    A few images...

    A walk with Wally.

    The lovely California Poppy. These flowers actually close up in the evening time.

    A quick Sunday trip to the local farmer's market.

    Friends in the city ask me "where have you been?" and my answer is that I've been here. As much as I want to run from all that has been going on in my life, I actually run to these images. This much green has given me so much renewal.

    -Matt

  • En Memoria at the Pomona Fairplex

    Last weekend I walked through the Pomona Fairplex, which is local to me, for En Memoria. This was a special Dia de los Muertos celebration that combines the traditional altar-making with Southern California lowrider culture.

    Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) has made a huge re-emergence in popular culture lately, though it is considered a rather sacred holiday in Latino cultures. Being of part Mexican decent, it is a holiday that was lost to me by a few generations. My dad's side of the family didn't celebrate it much when they were growing up, mostly because they were looking to assimilate to standard white American culture at the time. Celebrating an holiday, traditionally held in a cemetary adorned with elaborate decorations and altars, wasn't the thing to do.

    The celebration, usually held around November 2, involves constructing complex altars (ofrendas) honoring deceased family and friends. The altars are decorated with skull motifs, marigolds, and favorite foods of those who have passed. Sugar skulls are also a tradional treat served.

    Though I grew up with an appreciation for certain Mexican culture, like ballet folklorico, this holiday was never quite on my radar until the last few years. It has become hugely popular again, which has prompted some backlash from Latino communities raising concerned about cultural appropriation. In the age of social media, many have referred to it as the "Mexican Halloween", which it most certainly is not. To some, it has become a hipster holiday purely for social media content and to adopt the traditions and decor that many communities consider to be sacred.

    It was for this reason that I sought out a celebration that was not only close to my home, but more off the beaten path. As opposed to hipsters and LA-types wandering around on an extended Halloween weekend, it was mainly families, communities, and lowrider enthusiasts.

    Lowrider culture is something I know nothing about, not that I knew anything about cars to begin with. Walking through the celebration, camera in hand, I found an appreciation for the creative effort that goes into creating these vehicles, despite the environmental impact. The tradition of altar making and lowrider culture really seemed to go hand-in-hand.

    As I reconnect to this holiday, I still feel like much more of an observer. At first I had reservations about even taking my camera. Why go and take pictures? Just for Instagram shots? I realized there are several ways to appreciate something. Photography is not only my livelihood, but it is a means by which I can open windows into places and experiences I know little about.

    This was the community altar at En Memoria. A place for everyon ein the community to honor a loved one who has passed. This to me is what the celebration was truly about. While I walked the space alone, I felt the strong presence of community and art. On my way out they had local Pomona artists creating graffiti art right in front of the people, reminding us that the death of loved ones can also inspire new life through creativity.

    Like I mentioned above, many communities consider this holiday to be sacred. With the rapid commercialization of it, I encourage anyone wishing to partake to do their research and learn how to respectfully honor this tradition.

    En Memoria was presented by Mi Poco LA, featuring local artists and vendors.