Lorena Endara is a photographer from Panama City who is currently based in Los Angeles. She is a member of FotoFéminas, a collective of female photographers from Latin America.
In “Love is Not a Drug” Endara seeks out the unfamiliar based on a simple premise that is oddly familiar. She photographed a street that shares her name: Lorena — as a way to calibrate herself to her new surroundings and to continue to hone her voice as an artist. During the process, Endara discovers a community of people that sincerely open themselves to her lens. Drawing from her memories of home, Endara ultimately finds new narratives in her images that reconcile her past with her present.
Tell us more about “Love is Not a Drug” — how did you come about starting the project?
The project originally started when I decided to photograph a street in Los Angeles with the same name as me: Lorena. I was going through a process of finding my voice and I thought that the physical boundaries of Lorena Street would create a perfect scenario for a project that reflected my journey.
I started photographing with the idea that I was only going to shoot one roll of film and that my husband was going to use the contact sheet to compose a song. As I continued on my own personal process of healing and learning to self-love, I kept going back to what that first roll of film represented. I had a life-changing moment when I realized that I had been using love as a drug — a way of getting high easily and passively, assuming that love will eventually make everything alright. As I started to change this mindset, I continued to photograph on Lorena Street and this project became a long-term investment. I’m really bad at coming up with titles for projects but this one came up very naturally!
Tell us more about yourself! How has your upbringing and your background affect the way you approach photography?
I was born and raised in Panama City, Panama and this is a big part of who I am — even more now that I live in the US. The culture of consumerism and greed is so strong here that I find myself fighting against it on a daily basis. In Latin America we have a greater sense of appreciation for the things we have, for the simple things in life. In the US, however, you learn to compare yourself to people that have more than you and this is simply self-destructive. This body of work,“Love Is Not A Drug,” is about intimacy, abundance, and transformation. I approach people on Lorena Street (Boyle Heights, Los Angeles) with a lot of appreciation for the way they remind me of being in Latin America. For example, there are so many fruit trees growing on that 3.2 mile strip. I’ve seen figs, papaya, bananas, loquat, orange, lemon, lime, tangerine, grapefruit, pears, avocado, dragon fruit, cherry, pomegranate, mango, and much more. There’s so much magic in that!
Why is photography important to you?
I remember seeing an analog camera for the first time when I was young, maybe 7 or 8 years old. For my generation, we didn’t really grow up using technology or having it around so just looking at this camera was like seeing a spaceship. It was my dad’s camera but he didn’t let me use it that day. He said I could when I was older but I never got the chance to even see that camera ever again. My dad passed away when I was 10 and years later, when I built up the courage to ask my mom about that camera, she told me that she had already sold it. I was heartbroken and had all these emotions of grief, frustration, and anger mixed together. People say live your dreams, life is too short, follow your heart. Although I hate all that cheesy stuff, I know my dad’s death taught me that life is unpredictable and you have to do what truly matters. Photography still represents that sense of magic and wonder I felt when I saw an analog camera for the first time.
What is the most important thing that you learned by being a photographer (so far)?
Knowing how to anticipate what you are looking for, having patience to find it,and then enjoying it when you do.
What do you listen to while you are editing your images? Do you have a playlist?
I like discovering new music so I use that time when I’m alone editing to listen to bands that I’ve read or heard about. If I like some of their songs I’ll add them to my playlist for when I’m driving. I got into Kari Faux, Jimetta Rose, Noname, and Earthgang while editing.