The daily life of a latin gang in New York

In the Bloodline, the young Colombian photographer Nicolás Enriquez documents the daily life of the Latin Kings, questioning our imaginary of New York gangs due to the influence of television and newspapers.

From the series Bloodline by ©Nicolas Enriquez

Nicolas was born in the city of Cali, Colombia in 1993, at the age of 19 Nicolas decided to travel to New York to study Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at The International center of Photography where he graduated in 2014.

He has developed an interest in documenting Urban conflict, political and human rights issues. He currently works as a freelance photographer for the New York Daily News and his work has been published in different media outlets such as The New York Times, American Photography, Getty images, PROOF, etc.

First of all, can you tell us a little bit how did you get into photojournalism?

I always had a need to report, I've always been very curious and photojournalism helped me focus this curiosity into something and produce a body of work or a story with it.

I decided to go to New York and study photography at ICP (International center of Photography) in 2013 when I was 20 years old, I did a one year program in photojournalism and documentary photography, which helped me build an idea on how to develop stories.

How do you think living in New York has influenced your photography?

Living in New York has been an amazing experience. I think New York doesn't really help you, is a city that will require you to push your effort to the limit and even then do more and more work. NY is a city where you really need to work hard to make yourself or your work stand-out, and I think this is how NYC has influenced my career. It has helped me push my boundaries of learning and working to a fast speed rhythm.

Can you tell us how did your project, Bloodline, come about?

The Bloodline was an idea I had before coming to New York. I had a very clear image of New York that had been made by television, movies and advertisement and when I arrived to New York I really wanted to change this image and see how the city works behind this concrete walls street/times square curtain, I decided to document members of a gang, so I started going to places that appeared on the newspapers or tv news channels and even googled places in New York that are known for gang violence. I visited almost all of this places and started talking to people, finally after 4-5 months of trying and trying I was able to start shooting the Latin Kings gang. I ended up photographing them for almost 2 years, documenting their daily life, happiness, unity and also their struggle to survive in the concrete jungle.


From the series Bloodline by © Nicolas Enriquez

How did you find the people who are members of the gang? How was it like to gain access?

I walked and talked to people through several neighborhoods in New York doing a project called people living in their neighborhoods in which i would interview the person take a quick portrait and ask key questions to see if there was any gang affiliation or if they knew anyone who was a gang member. I was always very honest with what my intentions were, which of course made me get rejected several times until I finally met someone who was part of the Latin Kings gang and allowed me to follow him around taking photos of him, and I like this. I was able to slowly start approaching more and more gang members until I got full access to photograph the gang.

Do you intent to continue working in your native Colombia?

I actually just finished a project in Colombia in December. I traveled to Toribio, a zone in Colombia that has been under attack by State Militia and Illegal armed groups like FARC and Paramilitary. This town is in control of the NASA indigenous people, I decided to travel here to document the population and I ended up staying 2 months documenting the economic survival of this town, which is mainly based on illegal marijuana and coca fields. These indigenous people/farmers, grow this plants because they have very few choices to sell different crops to the cities, transportation to the area is very expensive and risky, so one of the only products that actually builds an income is marijuana and coca, so I was interested in how the first steps of a billion dollar business is and also how this populations get pushed to grow illegal crops because of the lack of government support and the armed conflict.

As an emerging photographer, could you tell us what photographers have influenced your photographic work?

I've been strongly influenced by the work of Andrew Lichtenstein, an American photographer with an amazing heart, I was very lucky to have him as my teacher and now a friend of mine, also very influenced by the work of Joe Rodriguez who no doubt pushed me everyday to pursue my passion with strength, and last but not least Stephen Ferry who has done not only amazing work but something that very few times can be said and is a complete from corner to corner body of work about Colombia's armed conflict and it's history.

To learn more about Nicolas Enriquez visit his PHMuseum profile

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