Skip to main content

Kevin Estrada grew up in what he calls “Van Halen Country,” the San Gabriel Valley, primarily the Arcadia / Pasadena area. It goes a step further – Estrada attended the same junior high school and high school as VH bassist Michael Anthony, and heard the tales firsthand of the legendary backyard parties and hole-in-the-wall club and casino shows where a young Van Halen paid their dues. All of this had an impact on Estrada, who became a hard-rock fan at an early age. So it isn’t surprising that Van Halen was not only his favorite band, but also a huge creative inspiration to him in many different ways. But while all of Kevin’s friends wanted to play guitar like Edward Van Halen, Kevin wanted to be the guy taking photos of Edward Van Halen.

And so it began. Estrada started smuggling his brother’s Pentax K-1000 into shows, and later, his trusty Canon AE-1 (along with an 80-300mm zoom lens in a friend’s hair or in another friend’s bosom – true story). At that time, it wasn’t about trying to be a photographer, it was more about capturing and holding on to a moment. Once the concert was over, it was over. But a photo lives on forever.

Estrada began thinking more seriously about someday making photography a career choice. At this point, he was making some money from selling his rock photos out of his locker at school, and to fellow rock fans waiting in line before a concert. As a way to work on his craft more regularly, Kevin began shooting some of the local bands in his area. Growing up in the early ‘80s was a magical time for hard rock and metal music – local venues like Perkins Palace and the Ice House in Pasadena, the Country Club in Reseda, Timbers in Glendora and the Troubadour and the Whisky-a-Go-Go in Hollywood had more amazing talent than they knew what to do with.Mötley Crüe, Ratt, W.A.S.P, Quiet Riot, Black ‘N Blue and Armored Saint were just a few of the bands that were playing at these clubs on any given night. Many of these “local band” photos that Kevin Estrada snapped as practice or for one of his school photo assignments later went on to grace the pages of glossy rock magazines around the world.

With a little bit of luck (and a lot of persistence), Kevin was discovered by CREEM magazine and was offered the chance to begin his career as a real music photographer. The days of smuggling lenses in his friend’s hair or taping his camera to his back were replaced with official assignments and approved photo credentials. In fact, Kevin Estrada’s first official assignment was the Ramones at the Hollywood Palladium – shooting from what is known as “the photo pit,” located directly in front of the stage. Being that this was all new and exciting to Estrada, he shot his only two rolls of film in just a matter of minutes and had no film left for the rest of the show. Luckily, the band seemed to like Kevin and invited him to photograph them again the following night in Long Beach. Kevin made sure to pace himself a bit more that night.

In the following photo gallery, we present some of Estrada’s greatest photos of the era, with detailed commentary on the photographer about how it all went down. And for more of Estrada's photos, head to his official website and follow him on Facebook and Instagram.