Having picked up a camera in her teenage years, photographer Amanda Lopez slowly developed an impressive reel of happy snaps that has led her to work with mags such as XXL, Mass Appeal and The Source. Add to that a stint as Estevan Oriol's assistant and you know this lady has the skills to pay the bills. Winding down her critically acclaimed True Story Series exhibition which details her travels through the eyes of her beat up Vans, La Lopez is in the process of creating another slice of history with a new book called ‘Girls Got Kicks.’ The book is set to be published in conjunction with Female Sneaker Fiend Lori Lobenstine and will travel worldwide to chronicle the crusade of women and their sneakers!
Big ups from Down Under, Miss Lopez! Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into photography?
Let's see, my name is Amanda Raquel Lopez and I am from Sacramento, California. I got into photography in high school thanks to my dear photo teacher Mr. David Tafoya. He saw some talent in me and really encouraged me to take photos. Once my dad saw that I was interested in photography he let me borrow his Canon A-E1 and I have yet to return it. It actually remains one of my primary cameras to this day.
Is this something you knew you were always going to do?
I didn’t really figure it out until I was trying to decide what I wanted to study in college. Once I realised that art, and especially photography was an option, that’s when I made my decision. I have always loved art but I wasn’t the best painter or drawer so photography just made sense to me.
You seem to have a rich Latina heritage which seeps through your work – how do you capture the pure essence of your culture with a camera?
Wow, what a question. I am not sure. I grew up in a pretty strict, traditional, Mexican household so my culture is a definite inspiration in my work. I really try to just take honest photos and since I like to take pictures of my friends and family, when I am photographing them, I think those inspirations seep through and ‘capture the essence.’
What is it about black and white film that resonates?
I try and chose the best type of film for whatever I am shooting. I think I ‘see’ things more in black and white so that’s why I tend to lean towards it but every situation varies. For example, when I shoot at dusk I always chose colour film. If I am shooting photos at a show or concert, I always select black and white film. I just let the situation, client or mood dictate my choice of film.
You’ve started making a bigger name for yourself working with editorials such as XXL, The Source and Mass Appeal – how did this all come about?
It all happened kind of organically. I got a chance to shoot for Mass Appeal thanks to Angela Boatwright. I emailed her when I moved to LA but at that time she had just left the magazine so she passed my info along to the new photo editor. I got to shoot for XXL thanks to a couple of folks. A friend of mine was cool with the associate photo editor over at XXL so when the time was right she hit me up and I got to shoot some stuff for them in the Bay and LA. XXL has a new photo editor now, Mike Delfin, and I have been fortunate to be able to work with him. He has been super and given me some real cool assignments.
Is it true you assisted Estevan Oriol?
It is true! Sometimes I still pinch myself because it truly was a dream come true to work with Estevan. To this day he remains my favorite photographer. I got to assist him on some really amazing shoots with people like 50 Cent, Kim Kardashian, Travis Barker and so many others. It was an incredible experience to watch him work. He is truly a gifted photographer. I first saw Estevan’s work in an issue of The Fader when I was a college student at San Francisco State. He had done a project on tattoo and lowrider culture in Japan that just blew my mind. The pictures were so beautiful that I felt compelled to email him and tell him how inspired I was by his work. So I emailed him and to my surprise, he replied and we just kind of stayed in touch over the years. I got an opportunity to move to Los Angeles a few years ago so when I got down there, I hit Estevan up and was fortunate to be able to land a gig assisting him. The experience was awesome! It was a dream come true...
How did you hook up with our good mate Gabriella at Mama to do her lookbooks?
I was a fan of Mama before I even knew Gabriella. I had seen her ads in Mass Appeal and began to follow her line. One day, I saw that she was looking for interns so I applied and we built our relationship that way. I worked for her for a few months and got to see how hard this lady works. She is a hustler! Around the end of the year, I got the opportunity to go down to Los Angeles so I ended up leaving Northern Cali to go down south to work with Estevan. I was in LA for about a year when I decided that I wanted to come back north, re-group, and start working on some of my own projects. It was perfect timing because when I came back Gabriella was looking to start shooting her spring lookbook.
Let’s talk about your work with Vans and the True Story series. What’s the 411 behind the exhibition? Was Vans involved on any level?
Vans isn’t involved in the project though I get some nice blog love from Nikki who manages the Vans blog. The series started one summer at a skate park in Davis, California. I went to the park with the homies to learn to skate but I was unsuccessful so instead I took pictures. I happened to be wearing my Vans and the rest is history, as they say.
Vans are comfortable, fun and easy to wear.
Ok... Where can peeps catch the show and are there plans to tour it?
Right now the show is in LA at IMIX books. It will be up until April 26th so if you are in the LA area, please check it out. Right now there are no definite plans to tour but so far the show has been in Sacramento, Santa Ana and now LA. I am hoping to bring it to the Bay Area this summer and New York in the future. It has been going really well. Overall I think people get a kick out of it. No pun intended.
You’ve long stated you want to publish a book of your photography – do you see this happening any time soon?
I would love to publish a book of my work. Sites like My Publisher and Blurb are great tools to make that happen. There are some projects that I have been working on that I would love to create books for, however it’s quite a process. There is a lot of editing that I need to do first so maybe by years end I'll have something out and available.
Well it seems this may come true very soon, with your work with Female Sneaker Fiend Lori Lobenstine on her project 'Girls Got Kicks'. How did that jump off?
Lori and I connected after she had seen some of my Vans shoe shots and my work with Mama. When she approached me about the book, I was super down to collaborate on this project. I think it’s important to recognize the role ladies play in the sneaker scene. It’s definitely not just a boys’ game.
(at this point of the interview, Amanda hooks up with FSF's Lori Lobenstine to give Sneaker Freaker a better insight into the book's development)
Amen! Can you give us a heads up into what we can expect?
LORI: GIRLS GOT KICKS is the first ever photo documentary of badass females, told through their passion for sneakers. It will be a worldwide documentation of famous fiends like SF's own Mafia reppin' as a blazing DJ and Mama busting out her dope as hell Pro Mamas, but also giving love to the thousands of other female sneaker fiends who use kicks to say something about themselves. This collaboration between FemaleSneakerFiend founder Lori Lobenstine and photographer Amanda Lopez will bring you up close and personal with the passion that intertwines these girl's hearts and soles. We're working on having it come out as a book as well as having excerpts featured in some cool sneaker and women's mags.
AMANDA: We’ve gotten to meet and photograph some lovely ladies on the west coast. This summer we are going to the east coast to photograph even more female sneaker fiends so please be on the lookout for that.
In terms of trends, what are you seeing?
To be honest Mafia, I can’t really say but what I can tell you though is that I think the female sneaker scene is full of dope, positive energy and growing. When Lori put a call out to FSF in Cali, we got a lot of response. Once the word was out on the streets, people came out in groups to be a part of the project. I think one reason we got such a good response was that the ladies are real eager to get their voices heard and their shoes seen. Everyone who came through had a story to tell, was super positive and nice.
What’s up next for La Lopez?
La Lopez has BIG plans this year but I don’t like to talk about things until they happen. I don’t want to jinx myself. But I can tell you I have a show coming up in Berkeley at the art space, Pueblo Nuevo sometime in May.
If you're a Freakette and would like to take part in 'Girls Got Kicks' hit the ladies up with an email here