There are few places in the world that can inspire likes Los Angeles. It’s a bubbling hotpot of creeds and cultures, an unparalleled and unforgiving creative hub and photographer Daniel Funaki has the ample task of capturing and documenting such unpredictable forces. Equipped with just a Canon AE-1 and the thirst for intensity, Funaki comfortably takes his place among the cogs of the machine that is Wild Records, his images every bit as raw and real as the musicians who grace the label.
Daniel Funaki grew up in the San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles. The son of Japanese immigrants, it was influence at home that set him on his way down 35mm Avenue.
“My dad had an old picture album shot in the mid sixties in Japan of him and his friends during their trips. The album had captions to all the photos and it was a picture diary right before my dad came to the US and his life would change forever.”
A veteran street photographer, Funaki lurked the pavements of LA before and after work, taking in and embracing the diversity and characters such a city provides, sometimes ruffling city-dweller’s feathers along the way.
Glancing at Daniel’s shots, a combination of portraits and spontaneous moments, it doesn’t take long to see the striking similarities with the works of New Yorker Dennis Stock, the celebrated photojournalist.
“He took the iconic photo of James Dean walking in the rain in an empty Times Square in New York City. That image inspired me to look at the details of images and create a mood for the viewer.”
Assignments for magazines, periodicals and clothing companies ensued but it was music that came calling, more specifically, the savage sounds of Los Angeles’ premier rock ‘n’ roll label, Wild Records.
“The first Wild band I heard was the Vargas Bros. I started going to shows and got to know the other bands on the label. In 2010 I was on assignment for L.A. Record magazine and got an assignment to shoot a Wild Records event.“
The rest, as they say, was history. Funaki was picked up by Wild’s head honcho, Irishmen Reb Kennedy, and quickly installed as the label’s official photographer. The Hollywood based Wild Records has continued to grow since its inception in 2001, initially incapsulating California’s Hispanic community’s penchant for 1950’s rockabilly before incorporating a wider range of underground sounds. Despite an award-winning documentary feature and an array of independent music magazine coverage, it remains one of the West Coasts’ best kept secrets.
“I love shooting musicians. If a band inspires me and I love what they do because they do it from their heart, that inspires me. I like to shoot behind the scenes, candid, raw and unposed. When a musician is totally lost in the moment and I capture the intensity that really inspires me and hope it inspires others.”
“It was Wild Records that saw potential in my work and because of Reb Kennedy and the artists’, my work is seen all over the world now.”
Much of the aforementioned work are focused on Marlene Perez, the fiery red-headed, powerhouse vocalist for The Rhythm Shakers. Along with the likes of Omar & The Stringpoppers and The Delta Bombers, the band have become a staple of the international rockabilly scene and the sound and image the label projects.
“I really enjoy shooting Marlene. We have worked together on various projects and she is always up for pictures and I am really proud of the work we have done together. I hope that with we keep pushing our creative boundaries and make images that will stand the test of time. I think of it as creating a visual document of the label.”