For more than 20 years, Homeboy Industries in downtown Los Angeles has helped transform the lives of thousands of former gang members, parolees and at-risk youth by offering jobs and a variety of free services as a way to break the cycle of gangs, crime and prison.
I sometimes work with non-profit organizations, photographing their missions and dreams, and in 2008, I began photographing the people employed at Homeboy Industries and every aspect of their work, including the Homeboy Bakery, the Homegirl Cafe, and the silkscreen, maintenance and tattoo removal operations. I went to the annual picnic, heard poetry at the Los Angeles Central Library, attended Homeboy art exhibits, and enjoyed the Cafe’s food. I heard stories of pain and stories of success. Someone I photographed was murdered. I was jolted. I was moved.
I have traveled all over the world, and every time I went to Homeboy, I felt like I was traveling. I had in fact entered another community and another culture, once again. This culture was about hope, redemption, and second chances. About people struggling to change. About repairing broken dreams. About an organization redirecting lives, one homeboy and one homegirl at a time.