Photos by Robert Ibarra. Mike Watt at 4th Street Vine.
SNAP! by photographer Robert Ibarra is now on view at 4th Street Vine. The photos hanging from the Retro Row bar’s wall are that of a longshoreman who for nearly four decades has been capturing local garage bands in their element.
He and his brother, Craig, sifted through thousands of his photos taken over the years to find a collection of 20-plus images showcasing his favorite local bands.
“Those are local bands that we go and see like every couple of weeks, you know they’re always playing, they’re always hanging out,” Ibarra said. “So they’re really just good friends and we love their music.”
Extra Frothy Dynamite at Cafe NELA, Los Angeles.
As a longshoremen of nearly 20 years and a San Pedro resident for life, 53-year-old Ibarra calls himself “old”, but the prolific photographer still follows the music with his lens and keen eye for movement.
It was in 1982 when Ibarra was about 17 years old that his dad gave him a little bit of money to use for what he pleased. He bought a camera and the rest is a storied history of going to the punk rock shows of his brother, following his friends’ garage bands, as well as photographing the neighborhood skateboarders.
“I’ve always been a big fan of skateboarder magazines, surfer magazines, older magazines like in the 70s[…] and I always loved all the close-up stuff, so I just really wanted to give it a shot,” he said.
His goal is always to get everything in the picture, while still being close enough to the stage that the facial expressions of those performing are detailed and nuanced, showing a kind of movement despite their logical stillness as a photograph. For this, he uses a fisheye lens.
Not a fan of large concerts, it’s the smaller, more intimate shows where Ibarra thrives.
Nasalrod at Harold’s Place, San Pedro
“A lot of people would go, ‘Man, I didn’t get to see the show, but I’m seeing your photos and it feels like I’m right there,’” Ibarra said. “I’m right inside the music, it’s not from a distance. I’m right inside of the whole thing happening.”
In 2015 the brothers started frequenting 4th Street Vine when one of their favorite San Pedro bands began playing there. In SNAP!, some of the photos show off the bar’s familiar brick wall with musicians, vocalists belting out lyrics in front of an intimate crowd.
“In color or in black and white, he captures the heat of the live performance,” writes Victor Gastelum, a local artist and former designer for SST Records (home to legendary punk bands Black Flag and The Minutemen). “The photos are well-crafted, exciting, and never static like live shots can be. Clean and clear is part of his style. He shoots what you didn’t see even when you experienced it, too. The photos go beyond documentation because you can hear the images.”
SNAP! will be on view through Friday, March 16. All photos are for sale. Created by Craig, the SNAP! zine can still be purchased for $10 via the link here.
Cover of the zine made for SNAP!
Check out more photos from Ibarra’s Flickr here and follow him on Instagram @robert_ibarra_.
4th Street Vine is located at 2142 East 4th Street.