Document Journal

De Guzman

Creative Direction Dominick Barcelona
Directors Grace Hartnett & Jill Ferraro
Photographer & Cinematographer Kelly Jeffrey
Camera Assistant Luke Nairn
Film Editor Marlo Cain
Assistant Editor Quincy Kai
Production Brian Miller
Film Colorist Kathleen Dycaico
Sound Design & Original Score Andrew Miller
Title & Layout Design Shannon Jager
Photo Retoucher Gregory Wikstrom

Text by Dominick Barcelona

Growing up, the car was everything. For my stepfather, Will, that car was a ’57 Chevy Bel Air in perfect robin’s egg blue. Every inch was spotless, and I grew to fear and treasure each detail. “Don’t get too close!” The car felt untouchable.

Driving to school was the one moment I could inspect it, close-up. Teal interior, always clean as a whistle, and when we pulled up to school—never the parking lot, always a safe distance across the street—I felt like royalty.

My stepdad Will De Guzman is the second youngest of eight children. In 1968, at the age of 7, he immigrated from the Philippines to San Francisco with his family. In the city, he met his best friends Fred, Joe, and Bobby, and they quickly became inseparable. Beyond growing up in immigrant families, what truly united them was their love for cars. Weekly parking lot meetups were the spot: the Las Estrellas car club, a local favorite in San Francisco, was the space in the ’80s for these young men to connect, show up, and commit to their shared passion for cars.

Fred and Will both share a love for classic lowriders. Repairing, polishing, and cruisin’—everything to do with presentation. These cars embody suave, with their incognito hydraulics and clean paint jobs. Joe, on the other hand, had a need for speed. He’s the ‘hot rod’ guy of the group. Bobbie got into VW Bugs for their quick and charismatic energy.

“You spoke a certain language when you were around cars … like music, how it transcends, making everybody on the same playing field. Car culture does that for us.” Uncle Bobby’s love for the language and character of cars hasn’t changed to this day.

As I grew older, I found myself drifting further from that world. I desired to make my own path, my own future. Cars became a symbol for my hardened relationship with my stepfather, our arguments growing longer and more frequent; words we couldn’t take back. I left home to escape.

Looking back, I’ve come to realize that cars weren’t the problem. Toxic masculinity gets a hold of you and feels impossible to shake off. For Will, working with cars gave him space and time to express himself and take pride in his creativity and talent. Cars were an art form—a way of finding oneself in a culture that doesn’t let men say how they feel. In this I see myself, and I see our bond: each of us seeking our own voice and journey in a difficult world.

For Will, Bobbie, Joe, and Fred, cars came with the promise of pride and freedom; a symbol of what could be. Cruising through the streets of San Francisco, these men created an America for themselves.

And for me? My love for this suave and flexin’ is something I translate into my own style, my work as a stylist, my love for the art in fashion. My car is the pride with which I carry myself, the man I am today, my own love and passion for what I do. Cars taught me about style, about class and creativity, and in this project I hope to honor these lessons, and teach them to you.

︎︎︎Originally published in Document Journal


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