rafa esparza speaking about “thanks for staying alive Fern.1994,” 2020

esparza depicts his older brother in a nostalgic rendition of Star Shots, ubiquitous glamour photography studios in malls in the 1990s. A popular pastime for pre-Instagram self-representation and sociality among Los Angeles youth, particularly in Black and Brown communities, esparza’s…

rafa esparza speaking about "thanks for staying alive Fern.1994," 2020

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esparza depicts his older brother in a nostalgic rendition of Star Shots, ubiquitous glamour photography studios in malls in the 1990s. A popular pastime for pre-Instagram self-representation and sociality among Los Angeles youth, particularly in Black and Brown communities, esparza’s adobe-backed version memorializes young lives lost to gang violence, the prison-industrial complex, and other forms of structural oppression. It is a refusal of erasure, a celebration of and mourning for those denied, and who perhaps never had access to, the mythical American Dream.

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