Adam Amengual: Homies series

In support of this year’s New Works Photography Fellowship Award Exhibition and to share the work of this year’s photographers with the online community, En Foco partners with juror Michael Mazzeo to highlight their work in a series of blog posts. To view all the work in the exhibition, preview the exhibition catalog (or better yet, come by and see the show!)

Blog post 3 of 5.

© Adam Amengual, Daniel Castillo, Homies series, 2011

Adam Amengual has always been fascinated by the lure of gangs, cults and other organizations of like-minded members––but he is also interested people’s potential for change. By working with an intervention organization called Homeboy Industries, he was given the opportunity to explore these topics and share his images.

© Adam Amengual, Cindy Hernandez, Homies series, 2011

Homies might seem to be a collection of mugshots were it not for the inclusion of hands, hats, and sunglasses, but these commercially influenced portraits would be better suited to the magazine page than the wanted poster. Photographed against a clean white background with studio lighting often seen in celebrity portraiture, Amengual’s subjects, dressed in casual attire, could very well be actors, musicians, athletes, or artists.

© Adam Amengual, Adrien Caceres, Homies series, 2011

Upon close inspection however, their finely detailed tattoos display gang symbolism, territorial claims, and respectful tributes to lost friends and family. They are imposing characters, equally tough-looking men and women with a similitude of confidence and attitude. Sitting close to the camera, and often gazing out of the frame, their poses and gestures suggest pride and heroism,  and in a way, they are deserving of that status. All former gang members, they have made the decision to change their lives through intervention and rehabilitation. They are surely role models for countless others from similar backgrounds dreaming of a better future.

–Michael Mazzeo, Guest Juror, New Works #15

© Adam Amengual, Carlos Nieto, Homies series, 2011. “I don’t knock the next man if they want to participate in that (the gang life)… its not for me anymore, it never was… it was never was… even the stuff I would do I would feel bad. I do know that a lot of people in gangs… all it is, is a bunch of guys coming from broken homes that are hurt, and they’re looking for a family, that’s what any gang is, that what I think it is.”
© Adam Amengual, Edward Mejia, Homies series, 2011
portrait by Adam Amengual
© Adam Amengual, Jerry Montaque, Homies series, 2011. “The average person in the streets… they would take a job if they were blessed with one… I think every gang member in America would… get money the right way… because ain’t nobody on this earth born with a dark heart… it’s the way they were brought up. They parents were on crack and living in the projects they never had no food in the refrigerator… you see your mama stealing out the store you going grow up and steal out the store. “
portrait by Adam Amengual
© Adam Amengual, Jessica Sandoval, Homies series, 2011. “Growing up… it’s pressure, wrong choices, bad decisions, teenage years, pressure, it can… put you in a situation… to do bad things… but eventually you learn.”

Adam Amengual is the recipient of En Foco’s New Works Photography Fellowship Awards, an annual program selecting three or more U.S. based photographers of Latino, African or Asian heritage, and Native Peoples of the Americas and Pacific, through a national call for entries. The New Works program helps artists to create or complete an in-depth photographic series exploring themes of their choice, and provides the infrastructure needed for national visibility and a professional exhibition of their new work in the New York area. More about him at his En Foco Photographers page and his website

Adam’s work is on view as part of New Works #15, at Calumet Photographic in Manhattan, through June 23, 2012.

Michael Mazzeo is a gallerist, educator and photographer based in New York City. He serves on the faculties of the School of Visual Arts, the International Center of Photography, New Jersey City University, and has been a guest lecturer at other prestigious institutions. He has been a featured portfolio reviewer at Fotofest, Review Santa Fe, Photolucida, Critical Mass, FotoWeek DC, The Center of Photography at Woodstock, ICP, ASMP, SPE, powerHouse Books, and Atlanta Celebrates Photography.


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