The Jonas Lara Legal Defense Fund

All images by Jonas Lara.

Jonas Lara is a celebrated artist and photographer who “has made a career tilting his camera toward the unconventional terrain of urban landscapes. He first developed his unique visual approach capturing high school friends’ nighttime antics in skateboarding and graffiti. Lara strongly believes he shares a visual language with architects, engineers, painters and other artists who challenge the conventionality of gravity and space.”

Last February, Lara was arrested while documenting graffiti artists painting a mural in Los Angeles. The photographs he took that night were intended to be part of a series Lara’s been developing for years– a “body of work [that] involves documenting artists both in their lives and in the process of their artwork.” This series focuses on a wide range of artists, not only graffiti writers.

Lara was “apprehended” along with the two graffiti artists by the LAPD, and charged with felony vandalism. His camera and equipment (lenses, memory cards, batteries) were all taken as evidence, and have yet to be returned to him, in spite of his dependence on them to make a living. Lara’s charges were later lowered to a misdemeanor, then changed to “aiding and abetting”, which carries the same sentence as the crime of graffiti-painting. Lara says:

“I have gone through the several stages of this case and my next step is the Jury Trial. If I lose my case, I can face up to a year in jail and have my license suspended. I need your help raising money to cover costs to hire a private attorney and related legal expenses…  Part of the artist portrait series was featured in an exhibition put together by the Cultural Affairs Department of Los Angeles.”

According to a PNDPulse article about Lara’s arrest, the artist appealed for help with the case to rights organization like the ACLU, but was told him they do not get involved in criminal cases. “If convicted, the Art Center College of Design graduate and former US Marine would be unable to enter the MFA program at the School of Visual Arts, into which he was recently accepted, in September.”

Does something about this irrational, bullying, trumped up, effed up charge rub you the wrong way? If so, donate to the Jonas Lara defense fund. You know how it goes, comrades. A dollar here, a 5-spot there… it adds up so quickly. Let’s make sure this artist gets a fighting chance.

3 Responses to “The Jonas Lara Legal Defense Fund”

  1. Trishelle Says:

    As if the fact that doing street art can get you a year in jail isn’t horrible enough, all she did was take pictures! Uhg, this is unbelievable. I’m going to donate, then post this around.
    Thanks for letting us know.

  2. Noah Says:

    Donated a couple of days ago. I don’t see an obvious way for us to keep up with the case; does Coilhouse plan on following it?

  3. Tequila Says:

    I’ll happily donate what I can for sure. This is a gross excess of legal force at a time when the city of LA can’t even AFFORD to pull stunts like this. Literally. They can’t even keep violent offenders for the remainder of their sentences. They in the process of releasing many EARLY due to overcrowding.

    The real crime here is the fact that regardless of the outcome the court costs will be severe. If a sane jury is chosen they will hopefully toss out the case but more than likely it’ll end in a fine. Really that’s all it should ever have been, a simple fine.* Numerous artists have done similar in this city so to make an example of this photographer is insane. More so if it endangers their educational goals…something the city keeps saying it supports.

    Ugh, this is as angering as it is sad.

    Also I’m surprised at the ACLU stance but given some of the bonehead stances they take maybe I shouldn’t be.

    *Personally I think even a fine would have been out of line. Documenting graffiti artists should not be placed in the same context as recording a violent crime. Unfortunately few make the distinction between graffiti artists and gang related taggers marking territory.