Playboys

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Members of the Crazy Riders Gang around one of their member's '48 Chevy Fleetline. Their neighborhood is in the McArthur Park district of Los Angeles, just west of Downtown LA. 1995 Oakie, shown in the foreground is a very charismatic figure.

Back in 1991 gangs struck Yager as the most interesting, compelling, challenging and visual street culture in Los Angeles. He felt that they hadn’t been well documented, nor understood by the public at large, even though they were part of a vast and powerful sub-culture that had been around for decades. Yager decided to drive around looking for gangs to photograph and came upon members of the Playboys Gang in Mid-City LA. They approached him and asked to have their photos taken. He has been photographing members of that gang ever since.

First day in Playboys neighborhood. January 1992. Muerto poses with a challenging "Mad Dog" stare, while Midget flashes a Playboys Gang hand sign in the background.

Jumping In to the Playboys Gang. Initiation by way of a beating, while someone counts up to thirteen. The initiate is expected to fight back against at least three members. This is a joyous rite of passage.

Members of the Playboys Gang flash their hand signs and some guns in the back yard of an abandoned house they controlled.

A riot broke out in Downtown LA during Fiesta Broadway. Here police, including some on bicycle duty, beat a gang member before they arrested him.

Oakie from Crazy Riders displays the tattoos on his back. He had been shot and moves around in a wheel-chair.

Chava (not in any gang) shows his nephew how to fire a ball-bearing gun. The gun uses compressed air and lets out a big bang to which Anthony gasps. 1994

Laffey took his son, Anthony, to Disneyland. Here he shows him Roger Rabbit in Toontown. Rabbits are the predominant symbol of the Playboys Gang.

A Gang member waits on a rooftop with a Tech-9. He's waiting for rivals to appear from a possible three different directions. Such rooftop shooters are known as snipers.

Muñeco was shot in the neck and became a quadriplegic. Here we was visited by friends in hospital. He spent two years on life supporting machines before he eventually died.

BooBoo's eye. Showing PBS for the Playboys Gang and CBS for her clique within the gang: Crystal Bunnies. 2000

Squeezebox shoots up heroin in the Rosedale Cemetery, Los Angeles, where some of his homies are buried.

Lil' Ricky learns to swim at Castaic Lake, Aug 99.

3 Responses to Playboys

  1. Wonderful work, you’ve shown how threaded through all the violence gangs are so much about conformity and finding comfort in belonging.

  2. Chris Phillips says:

    These are amazing. Great use of b&w. My favorite is the graffiti picture because of how the subjects blend into the portrait.

  3. Robert Yager says:

    I’d just like to say that the main photo with the car, as well as a close-up of tattoos and scar, represent a different gang: CRS, Crazy Riders Gang. The gang member shooting up heroin in a graveyard, is from Easy Riders Gang.