For a couple of weeks I’d been seeing this group of guys hanging out in a particularly bad area of Skid Row. I assume the best from all people, but sometimes when you’re down on your luck you make bad decisions, and I never willingly walk into a bad situation or put myself in danger. Still, I was eager to meet them, and I knew they were gang affiliated, but the moment always has to be right for me. On the afternoon I took this photo, there was no time to wait for the right moment. I came around a corner with camera in hand and there they were. One of them immediately wanted to know if I was a cop, but luckily before I could answer, Boxer, the guy on the far left, told them I was cool. He’d been seeing me walking around Skid Row and taking pictures for a couple of years, and he told them not to sweat me. After I got a pass from Boxer, they were more than happy to let me photograph them. It was one of their suggestion’s to take off their shirts and let me get photograph their gang tattoos. I snapped a few photos and then they all dispersed pretty quickly. Having visible gang tattoos on the streets of LA is all the probable cause a cop needs to stop and search someone. None of these guys wanted to have a run in with the cops that day.
Suitcase Joe is a Los Angeles photographer who lives anonymously in our amongst. His Instagram page is an important document of our times. @suitcase_joe