Deeply rooted in and inspired by Los Angeles, Enkrypt Los Angeles' work not only tells the stories of the streets but of artists too. Head IT of one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world turned photographer/videographer with the help of her close friend and well-known rapper, Reverie, Enkrypt escaped the corporate world to follow a blooming passion sprouted from picking up a camera.
Transitioning from the tech industry, where Enkrypt set aside her creativity for years, to that of a creative one was definitely a process. But in conversing about the journey to where she is today, we find that everything comes full circle and past experiences aid in the manifestation of your dreams in ways that are least expected.
With Enkrypt, we discuss picking up the camera for the first time, taking the scary leap to self-employment, capturing the streets, failing, and more.
When I was doing some research on you, I stumbled upon a podcast interview where you discussed having been a technician and how that was your dream job at one point. It’s so interesting how you went from tech to photography.
Yeah and they’re completely opposites which is the crazy part. From corporate to independent. It was a big jump for sure.
I’m glad you got to know my work. I appreciate it. I’ve been working really, really hard these past two years since I left my full-time job. Trying to brand myself as much as possible and stand out from the crowd most of all because anybody can just pick up the camera.
I have a lot of clerical experience and so that’s what I was helping Reverie with. She’s my best friend. We’ve been friends since I was 15. I never expected it to be the way things are now, prior to me picking up a camera. There were just conversations about how one day she’d be big enough to hire me to do her assistant and managerial stuff.
It’s crazy how it worked out. Time kind of sped up when I picked up the camera. It’s definitely been a crazy journey. Adapting from corporate to independent.
I’d like to talk more about that because I think a lot of people benefit hearing about other people’s journeys going from corporate to independent. What did that first time you pick up the camera look like?
I worked for one of the biggest entertainment companies in the world and in working there, I shut down my creative side completely for years. When I landed there it was just figuring out mechanics. I didn’t even think about drawing or painting, things I used to do when I was younger.
They gave me a camera at work to take pictures of all the physical damages that came through the office for warranty purposes and that’s how I first got my hands on a camera. Then Reverie started to pop off in music. I always was going to her shows since the open mic days. I just started taking the camera with me because I realized she never had photos of any of her shows. Most photos were off a phone or weren’t great quality, so I thought of the camera I had at work.
So there I was with this camera, not knowing how to use it still. I captured some cool moments, nothing amazing. Rev told me to bring it again to her next show and I just decided to keep practicing.
I started getting that creative itch again with this camera and got obsessed. I saw online what kind of pictures that camera could take and it was my goal to capture photos like that. It was my goal to learn the camera inside and out. So I started doing research.
Man, that's awesome! Would you use the camera outside from Rev's shows too?
I started going to the photo meets in LA, a whole underground scene of photographers. It’s so huge. They all gather together and go mobbin’ pretty much. After going with them I got this passion for street photography. It was great. It felt like when I was doing graffiti when I was younger. The cops would stop me with my camera and tripod on the freeway. They would laugh because I’d be risking my life for a photo!
It was a thrill.
Eventually my boss started noticing the camera was missing and would ask me about it. I’d tell my boss it was at home and they’d ask why. So I would tell him I’d take it to my homie’s shows and he’d make fun of me, didn’t believe my friend was someone big. He’s one of my biggest fans now so if he heard this conversation he’d be embarrassed. He’s such a huge support system now!
He told me I needed to bring the camera back and said I made enough money to buy my own. So he gave me that idea of buying my own camera because I was making enough money. I had just gotten a raise.
I was really excelling at work. I was a fill-in and after that they contracted me for six months then a year. A year later they bought out my contract and hired me to work for them. My career path was taking off. I had a team working for me. Everything was going so good at work.
I'm imagining now that it was hard for you to leave this job.
At first it was a thrill getting hired, doing my due diligence there and gaining everyone’s respect. After a while, I started realizing everyone around me was the same group of people that were there when I was an intern five years prior. I realized people there weren’t going anywhere. After two years you know everyone and see that everyone hates their life.
I was the fresh meat getting raises and promoted quickly. It was more weight on me and less on them. The more they made me work, the less they would work. I started feeling like I'd be stuck there for the next ten years. I started seeing how ugly that cycle was.
I reached my goal, my dream job. This was where I always wanted to be and now I was just going to rot there.
For a while I had to take time off because my body couldn’t take it anymore. I was putting in sixty hours a week. I was getting sick and wouldn’t see my family. There would be days where I wouldn’t see anybody and just be making money.
That’s when I started wondering if this was worth it. I was 25 when it started hitting me and everyone was 15 years older than me. I started really getting discouraged and while that was going on, my best friend started to tour Europe and was constantly making jokes about hiring me one day.
As I started getting better and better at photography, I started getting gigs on the weekends. So I started working seven days a week, for the love of photography. I was charging but it got so bad that I was starting to get sick again.
Eventually, as I progressed and got more comfortable with it, I started really considering doing it full-time.
So what made you decide to actually take the leap?
My friends and family would reach out concerned that I wasn’t texting back and they hadn’t seen me in months. That’s when I started realizing that this was going to be me for the rest of my life and it really started scaring me.
I don’t have a wife. I don’t have a husband. I was single, no kids. There was no reason I should be doing that to myself. But I started feeling guilty saying that because people would come up to me and congratulate me on my position. People would be impressed by me when they met me and find out where I worked. My mom was one of the proudest women in the world when she found out I got hired for that position. She felt I was set for life. I just couldn’t tell her that I hated it and was dying inside. So I would vent to my friends and tell them what would happen at work. I felt discrimination as well. I’m young, Chicana, have tattoos. Even just for being a female in the tech world. I was the head IT there.
Rev said, “I’m going to tell you because you need to hear it. You hate your job. And it’s okay to hate your job, even though everyone is glorifying it. The money is great, yeah, but you hate it. We don’t want to see you like this anymore. I’m going to throw it out there, you don’t have to answer now, but I can afford you now. Maybe not much, might start at minimum wage but I think you need to change your lifestyle asap.”
I got so scared because I wanted to say yes so bad but I knew that everyone would be disappointed and shocked. When I quit I lost so many friends. I realized they were all hanging out with me for the wrong reasons. Because I had money. And to me I didn’t see it like that. I was just this humble kid from the hood who made it. I wanted to be nice and generous.
So I said okay to Rev. Every three months or so I wanted to go back because I only had so much saved. After four months I realized I couldn’t pay my rent anymore. Things got real. Then Rev asked if I wanted to move in together because she was trying to move out of her grandma’s too. My other friend agreed and we got our three bedroom apartment. That’s when the grind time started. I realized I had to really get it together. I had to get really good at photography and make some money. I started treating everyday like it was a work day.
Now I am so busy that it’s crazy. I don’t even know where to pick up my gigs from because I’m booked all day, everyday. I’m extremely blessed.
How long ago was it that you quit?
Like, two to three years ago. July of 2016 I think.
At what point did you start feeling stable with your independent work?
About six months ago! Literally. I just moved into my new apartment in December and was able to afford my own place again.
Congrats! That’s so dope. I feel like you had so much going on and you had to weigh the pros and cons of so many things. It’s so great that you chose to follow what you were becoming passionate about. And it sounds like you’ve been creative your whole life! How have your upbringings influenced your art today?
Graffiti influenced it because of the rush I found in street photography. Taking candids of people on the street for example. I can relate street photography a lot to graffiti, which I did a lot of when I was younger. I used to be in a crew called Stoners for Life, based out of LA. Stoner crew/tag crew. I was also in an all girls crew called PDG, which Rev was a main head of.
I was definitely influenced by the tattoo scene, as well. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that I have a lot portraits of tattoos and gang life and what it is to be from the hood. Not admiring it for its evilness but for its realness and rawness. Not everything is ugly like the media makes it seem. Some people had no choice. A lot of us had no choice but to live the way we did. Our environment was what created us. I try to bring out the ugly, make it beautiful for everyone else to see and appreciate it a bit more than its stereotypes. We’re just Chicanos that grew up in a bad environment surrounded by drugs.
I can say a lot of what I am passionate about as a person in general inspires a lot of my photography. I try to always embed a message or feeling in my photos. So it’s not just a portrait.
Yeah your portrait photos are really amazing!
I got more into it when I started connecting with another soul for a split second. I would always hear about people connecting to their subject but when it really started happening to me and I learned how to do it (capturing images that are timeless or really deep into a soul in a way not a lot of people can), that is when I became more obsessive with portrait photography. I can also say it had to do a lot with my personality because I am a deep person. My mom calls me "super sensitive". So, me being super sensitive, attentive to detail, and liking the thrill of street photography.
I have a lot reasons why this worked out for me. Just based off of my past. In a million years, though, I just never thought it would be photos. Five years ago if you were to tell me that I would be traveling the world, shooting photos for my best friend and doing music videos overseas I would laugh.
It all definitely comes full circle. I’d like to touch more on why representing the streets of LA the way that you do is important to you because your street photography definitely stuck out to me when I first stumbled upon your work.
It’s very important because you look up the history of LA online and you see a lot of vintage, cool photos that meant nothing to them then. Now it’s things that we yearn for and look for. We want to know what the style was like back in the ‘70s. We want to know what the corner of 7th and Broadway looked like back in 1995. You know what I mean? We are capturing moments that are not going to be there forever. For example, the 6th Street Bridge in LA. There was the biggest meet ever! Even LAPD went to shut it down. Thousands of photographers went before they closed down the bridge just to take photos of it. Why? Because we know this bridge has been here forever and represents a huge part of LA’s heart. We wanted to make sure that we captured this day as much as possible because when people look up what the bridge looked like, our photos are telling the story now. Not only that but there’s always different perspectives too. So many people capture LA in different ways and it’s super awesome.
I also like to decorate my home with where I am from. So many of my friends see photos of LA and they think it’s the dopest photo of the city and I wouldn’t want to represent it any other way. That’s why I call myself Enkrypt Los Angeles. I needed to make sure I rooted that forever. Even if I end up on the other side of the world, I am still going to be LA.
When you were talking about the bridge and capturing photos of it before it’s taken down, it brought me to think of the gentrification that’s been happening here in Tucson. There’s a photographer here who’s been intentional about capturing those spaces before they’re gone.
Exactly! And gentrification is huge out here right now. For some reason that wave is hitting hard.
I’m from Highland Park and there’s one street called York, which has been completely gentrified. I feel both good and no so good about it. On York, there was a gang called Backstreet Locos, which is a part of the Highland Park gang. That street is a neighboring street adjacent to one of the main streets and they pretty much own that. It was their territory.
When I was younger growing up there, I couldn’t walk there. There was no way in hell I was going to walk down that street. And no way in hell anyone else was. My parents would always be on me, making sure I wasn’t on York. Now, you can walk there at night. Because of the gentrification, a lot of them got pretty much run out of their apartment buildings bought by investors and what not. So it did beautify the city and street. It’s full of coffee shops, art galleries and trendy thrift shops now. It actually looks alive.
If I would have taken a photo of what it looked like when I was growing up and you saw a photo of what it is now, you wouldn’t believe it’s the same place. But at the same time, it’s really disappointing for them to just outrun us like that. Not have any kind of moral respect for culture or territory whatsoever. A lot my friends’ landlords sold their house to investors so they had to move out. A lot of them can’t afford the rent anymore in Highland Park, so they had to move to neighboring cities that are way more crazy with criminal activity. So now I don’t see anybody I grew up with there. I used to go to the market and see a lot of my high school friends. Now I don’t know anybody in the market anymore. It ruined the feeling of home and community. So, it has its pros and cons.
Man, I am really enjoying hearing your story. I have even more respect for you now.
Thank you dude!
I had no idea that there were photographer meetups that are that big. I mean I could see it for LA but for you to go to these as an amateur photographer, did it intimidate you in any way to see all these people with a camera? Like, how do you stand out from that?
Oh yea. It’s the craziest. People are focusing on what you are doing. It becomes like a competition and that’s the beauty of it. There’s some that are more supportive than others. The little crew that I started off with there was four of us and it got so big, Jocelyn! They’re called TFTI_LA. I rode with them and it wasn’t even called that at the time. It was just hanging out taking photos. The guy that runs it was the first guy to DM me and see that I was taking photos. He asked if I wanted to shoot with him and the small group at the time. He told me that they just shoot for fun and walk around. I didn’t know anything and he pretty much brought me in to the whole scene. There was one guy named Jik, we’re still good friends, who taught me framing and angles and creativity.
Photo-meets are amazing for amateurs because you get to gain all these skills. If it wasn’t for street-meets, I wouldn’t know as much as I do now to be honest. We would share secrets with each other. There have been so many life changing moments where someone would show me a little trick for Lightroom that I didn’t know of and after that I’d apply it to my next photo and keep getting better and better.
How did you doing videography come about?
I started doing video a year ago. I was forced into it kind of from necessity. People around me would say, “Your camera records too right?” That’s how it started and me not being scared to try it. If I don’t like it, I just don’t put it out. A lot of my friends are musicians and rappers. I’ve been in the Hip Hop scene so long because of Rev.
I did my first music video for Kavi, it’s called Boyle Heights Forever. I bought a gimbal and decided to try it. I asked him what the shortest song he had was. We were taking pictures in Boyle Heights and we waited for the sun to go down. I read online (I did research on how to do video prior) that we have to wait for golden hour for it to look good. So come 4:30 p.m., we just started playing the song out of his cell phone and we did it. I came home and looked up how to use Adobe Premiere. I figured it out in about a month, cut it up, and it looked really cool.
I called my friend Louden, which is Reverie’s producer and one of my good friends, and told him I made a video. I asked him if he wanted to check it out. He came over and told me it was really good. He asked if he could mess with it and was getting into graphic/visual effects. We ended up making this thing in less than four hours. After that Rev told me to keep working on doing videos and I just wanted to keep getting better.
I just started learning techniques on how to cut, how to cut to the music, learn effects here and there, and next thing you know I was in Amsterdam with Rev on tour and she told me I was going to do a video for her.
Multi-faceted. That’s dope! It sounds like that quality of taking risks has served you a lot. Also being tech savvy.
Yeah that’s a huge one. I don’t think that I’d be this good if I wasn’t tech savvy. I tell people that all the time. People ask me how I got so good so fast and I tell them to learn their camera up and down. If you don’t know what every single button in your camera does, you have’t learned your camera. You’re never going to get everything out of it. Know your software to the point where it’s used as a tool and a brush rather than the driving force.
Once you know how to drive your car, then you can do donuts. But you need to learn how to drive first. Learn it so well that you’re not scared to do a donut.
That’s what I feel happens when people’s creativity gets locked out, when they can’t create what they want to create because they don’t have enough knowledge. They get insecure. When you have this whole crazy idea in your head and you can’t execute it, it will discourage you and you won’t want to do it anymore. Or even care to learn how to get it right.
Be okay with failing just to get better. Understand why you failed. Use the software as a tool to create, not drive. That’s my biggest suggestion for anyone trying to get good and proficient at what they do. Be open minded to other techniques. Don’t think that your way is the best way. I have so many editing styles, that’s how you know I am all over the place.
I see other photographers like consistency, like matching, and I like that too. I like it for photo sessions. But not for everyday life. Sometimes I don’t feel blue, I feel red. Everyday I try to match the edits with my mood.
I feel like that’s a good note to end on, with your suggestions for other aspiring photographers/videographers. Because you did get really good pretty fast it sounds like but you also did have a lot of tools under your belt from past experience that helped you.