“I was told that I wasn’t going to make it, and if I did, it wasn’t a 100% guarantee that I wouldn’t get sick again. So, I really wanted to leave something behind if anything ever did happen to me.”
Douglas Flores is grateful for each and every day. Beating cancer will do that to you.
The Los Angeles-based photographer has always had the urge to show people the world through his eyes. An urge that strengthened tenfold after his subsequent diagnosis and treatment. “If my friends and family can enjoy the moments I capture, then that’s all that matters.”
Douglas’s love for the lens spawned from skateboarding, depicting long days out at skateparks and rolling the streets. The shooter remembers ever so clearly the first time he held a medium-format camera and how amazing he found the piece of machinery.
“I remember thinking how beautiful it was…that experience just clicked with me and made me want to shoot film just so I could use these older cameras.”
Studying Douglas’s frames you’ll soon realise that shafts of light are his greatest friend. Whether it’s the warm sun glancing across the front of a home or film-noir tones leaking out of a shop at night, each picture is clinically considered.
“I’m drawn to the everyday. Things that people walk past and don’t notice.”
Douglas’s shots always contain evidence of human life, a bike on a lawn – left by a kid who just got called in for breakfast by his mum or a receiver left hanging from its chord in a phone booth. Interestingly, the shooter is always thinking about each scene and how it came to be. For him, there’s something super intriguing about the mark humans leave on spaces.
“I like to make up a story as I take in a scene. Every space has its own story that anyone can fill in with their imagination as I do.”
One of his favourite photographic outings was when he broke into his old school, to take pictures for a book he was working on. Walking the empty courtyard and cafeteria bathed in golden light, he recalls feeling pangs of nostalgia and being overwhelmed with emotion.
What stands out in my mind is the sharpness of Douglas’s photographs – crisp, clean and highly-detailed. To take these gems, the Californian flips between Kodak Colour Plus 200, Kodak Gold 200 and Portra 800 on either a Leica M3 for 35mm or a Mamiya 7 for 120mm. Lately, however, he’s put film cameras down and has been shooting digitally with a Leica M body.
“It’s the closest thing to an analog experience,” he tells me.
Perusing Douglas’s IG, where he goes by @littlenacho – the photographer covers a lot of ground across California and surrounding areas. Most of the time, he’ll take trips to random locations and sporadically take pictures en route to wherever he’s heading. “I’ve always got a camera on me, so I’m always taking snapshots here and there.”
Outside of his observationally-themed work, Douglas also explores portraiture with gripping results. It was this form of photography that he fell in love with before anything else.
“I like creating small narratives around my subjects. It started with just shooting friends and has expanded since then.”
Douglas picks and chooses his models on the certain types of emotions he’s trying to express. Different people give off different vibes and he picks accordingly. For him, people looking comfortable, relaxed and natural is the right recipe. “I’m not a fan of posing or over-the-top expressions, I feel less is more when it comes to a good portrait.”
With a camera seemingly glued to his hip, I was eager to get an idea of what else brings Douglas joy. Funnily enough we end up where we started…with skateboarding.
“Everything I’ve learned in life has been through skateboarding, the way I see the world. If I’m not taking pictures I’m out skating or hanging out with my loved ones.”
Take a trip through sun-drenched neighbourhoods of America. Follow the sun as it casts its warming touch over people, places and things you’ll more than likely never experience with your own eyes.
For that, there’s Douglas Flores and his.