vintage, nostalgia and memories


August 16, 2017

Interesting Black and White Photographs Reveal the Secret Language of LA’s Gang Signs in the 1980s

“Depending on context, hand signals can be used a variety of ways such as to greet, identify, confirm affiliation, disrespect rivals, conduct business, and bond members together,” writes parole board administrator Herbert Covey in his book Crips and Bloods: A Guide to an American Subculture.

1988 was dubbed by The Los Angeles Police Department as “The Year Of The Gang.” It was a time where homegrown street gangs from South Central and East LA started blossoming to the point where representations of them started making it on to the big screens and in pop music. And much like other conscious efforts that makes a gang identity stand out, from the clothes to the tattoos, graffiti and cars, hand signs–or “stacking”–was adopted as the official language of the gang.

Caught posturing for Axel Koester’s camera in Los Angeles in the late 1980s, these men and women are openly affiliating with their communities and local gang sets. But they do so with full knowledge that the gap between what we see and what they know is vast—the lexicon embedded in the subtle pinch of a forefinger to thumb is quite literally beyond our grasp.













(Photos: Axel Koester/Corbis via Getty Images, via Timeline)

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