lowriders and lowrider culture

Documentary and photography series

"Slow and Low" was written, shot, edited and produced by Helen Arase for Impact, a documentary magazine-show at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and as part of her master's degree thesis. © Impact 2018

About "Slow and Low" and "Photographing 'Slow and Low'"

This is a project about lowriding in California.

"Slow and Low" is a documentary about Daniel Galvez, Stefanie Lizet Murga and Carlos Rodriguez's experiences in the lowriding community. "Photographing 'Slow and Low'" is a series of photos that give a glimpse into their lives and some of the people who surround them. 

The way to drive a lowrider is to cruise "low and slow." There are video projects dedicated to the phrase, and more dedicated to the inverse, like this one.

Slow and low - instead of low and slow - was used by Carlos Rodriguez, Dukes Car Club member, lowrider and one of the cornerstones of this documentary. Rodriguez compared the hot rod community's preferences to the lowriding community's with,

"They like 'em fast and loud, and we like 'em slow and low."

 

Check out the galleries to see some who build lowriders and some who cruise lowriders.

Building lowriders

Daniel Galvez, professionally known as Danny D, has been lowriding and building lowriders since he was a kid. He is known worldwide for his elaborate paint and pinstriping. His employee, Stefanie Lizet Murga, is at the start of her career, and already one of a few women making waves in the industry. At Danny D Studios in Baldwin Park, Calif., he and his employees do custom paint, body modification and pinstriping.

Cruising lowriders

Carlos Rodriguez owns three lowriders, two are still being restored or customized and one is known throughout the city. His 1947 two-tone pearl blue and white Buick Super lowrider blasts oldies throughout Sacramento and the suburban community where he lives, Rio Linda, Calif., a suburb of Sacramento. Rodriguez began lowriding in his adulthood and is part of the backbone of Sacramento's cruise nights.


More from the project:

A woman in a man's world

Stef pinstripes with the best in an industry where back in the day - as Galvez says it - "guys drove the cars and girls were the trophies."

 Murga retouches flake that was exposed by a buffing or sanding process with candy paint, a tinted translucent . "[Flake] is like glitter for cars," she says.

Murga retouches flake that was exposed by a buffing or sanding process with candy paint, a tinted translucent . "[Flake] is like glitter for cars," she says.

Stefanie Lizet Murga works at Danny D Studios. She started three years ago as an apprentice and has no plans to leave Galvez's shop any time soon. 

"My favorite thing is doing tag team striping and stuff with Danny. Like you got this side [of the car], and I got this one," she says. "It's cool because he trusts me to match the side he's doing."

As one of two full-time employees, Murga is at the shop six days a week with Galvez. Danny D Studios has weekend employees, contractors and apprentices, too.

Murga says she looks after Galvez and makes sure he doesn't work too hard. She says he's enthusiastic about projects and overworks and overcommits himself.

 Murga, known as Stef, sands a motorcycle trunk lid. Danny D Studios is repairing and matching paint on the entire bike.

Murga, known as Stef, sands a motorcycle trunk lid. Danny D Studios is repairing and matching paint on the entire bike.

"It's fun to see him get all excited like a little kid. Like that dragster? He busted that shit out, like damn," Murga laughs. "I just turned around and damn, that shit was done."

Murga's laugh is loud and contagious. The shop always has a levity about it — each time someone bends over Murga imitates flatulence. There is quite a bit of joking too and Murga hangs with the guys, sometimes outdoing them.

Aside from being good at shop banter, Murga is a talented artist. She was one of two women of 50 artists invited to exhibit pinstriping and lowrider-inspired art at the Petersen Automotive Museum for "The High Art of Riding Low: Ranflas, Corazón E Inspiración," an exhibit that celebrated lowriding art, iconography and Chicano pride. 

Murga's contribution was part of a collection of custom painters and pinstripers who painted everyday objects in a lowrider-style pinstriping and custom paint. She painted a toilet seat. Galvez painted roller skates. 

With aspirations to be greatly recognized within the lowrider and custom industries for her own work, Murga doesn't like to advertise that she works with Galvez. She says it's really gratifying when esteemed painters approach her and tell Murga that she is talented. She aspires to paint as well as they do. 

It is not lost on her that Murga is one of the few women in a sea of men who professionally customize lowrider paint jobs and body work. undefined

"I'm pretty proud of myself, knowing I can do it all myself."

For pinstriping art exhibitions or art swaps Murga makes it a point to feminize her art, whether it's painting cartoon cholas with big lips instead of cholos with mustaches or using "girly colors" like pinks and purples.

The community loves her take on lowrider art — women — who've been lowriding iconography since the beginning. Murga says some of the wives of painters greatly admire her art and are jealous they don't have one yet.

It seems that Murga is well on her way — Galvez says she's part of a new wave of lowrider and custom artists.

Following in Galvez's footsteps, she is restoring and building a mini truck at her house. Now she's straightening out the body and doing other metalwork to ensure her truck will have a good foundation.

Murga has side projects and career goals, but right now she's very much dedicated to Danny D Studios.

"I'm hoping he keeps me around for the ride, you know?" Murga says. "That's what I want, for this to become more of a partnership; not just employer, employee."

 Galvez paints a youth dragster under a tent in the rain. He says this is the most fun he's had on a project in a long time. As he was striping, it was cold enough that Galvez couldn't feel his fingers.

Galvez paints a youth dragster under a tent in the rain. He says this is the most fun he's had on a project in a long time. As he was striping, it was cold enough that Galvez couldn't feel his fingers.

 The Rodriguez kids love to cruise. They've already started fighting about who gets which lowrider when they're old enough to drive.

The Rodriguez kids love to cruise. They've already started fighting about who gets which lowrider when they're old enough to drive.

 Flora Ramos, Socios Car Club -  Oldsmobile Cutlass

Flora Ramos, Socios Car Club - Oldsmobile Cutlass

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 Jackie Hader, USO Car Club -  Chevrolet Caprice

Jackie Hader, USO Car Club - Chevrolet Caprice

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 A Relentless Car Club plaque is illuminated by a passing car's headlights as the lowriders in Old Sacramento talk with each other before their final cruise home.

A Relentless Car Club plaque is illuminated by a passing car's headlights as the lowriders in Old Sacramento talk with each other before their final cruise home.

Looking for behind the scenes or social media-related lowrider work? Click here to go to the "behind the scenes" page.

Want to see the project I submitted to the capstone committee? Click here to be taken to USC's server (Best on a laptop on Google Chrome).