Across the 831 area in its pure beauty and vastness lies an often overlooked city. To an outsider, it appears to be your average farm town, but for those who reside, it is simply known as Salinas.
Within the city lies a diverse and cultural hub ripe with people from all walks of life converging into different communities. Hardcore punk, a subculture in punk rock initially garnering worldwide attention in the late 1970s and early 1980s for its more aggressive critiques on society, has had a thriving community here in Salinas.
And for local collective Masked Ataraxia, they have been covering and capturing the rising hardcore scene taking place in the 831 through the power of photography. Masked Ataraxia started as an idea by founder and California State University, Monterey Bay graduate, Leonardo Diaz and his friends to create a collective initially intended to promote artwork from other local artists throughout the Salinas area. Since then, they have grown in size and turned that idea into a thriving Instagram account.
“There was a 10-year gap without any shows but as people were starting to bring it back I was like, dude I want to capture this, I want people to know that Salinas isn’t a city of gangs and drugs, I want to show people that there’s music out here trying to be built up,” said Diaz.
From deep within the mosh pits, all the way to being right there on stage with artists and bands, Masked Ataraxia is there to capture those moments that can only be brought out of people through the power of music – something Diaz and the rest of the collective strive for.
“With the agenda of hardcore music, where there’s anger, angst, emotions going everywhere, we want to capture a bit of what bands and what their music represents. Whether its fuck the government because they’re taking money from us, or ‘man I feel bad because I did something wrong.’ We want to capture that emotion and give it to the people,” said Diaz.
The love for the community within the hardcore scene is why the collective and Diaz capture and share such raw moments. The community means so much to them because of how genuinely accepting it has been of them and everyone else, fostering a tight-knit community.
“It’s a very inviting and loving community, especially at the shows where everyone is friendly and talking. A group could be talking about Title Fight and you overhear them and you’re like, ‘Oh dude, you listen to Title Fight?’”
The core purpose of Masked Ataraxia, according to Diaz, is intended to cultivate a community where bands and artists are given a spotlight to carve out a place for themselves in the scene. The collective believes they have fulfilled that purpose.
“We want to be a group that helps out the community. If an artist or band is nervous to start up and wants to submit photos or do anything, we have a base where they can send it to us so other people can see and enjoy it while getting an idea of other people that are in this community,” said Diaz. “Whenever we take photos we send it to the artist and they can edit it however they want to and I feel like it gives them a piece of being part of Masked.”
In the hardcore scene, there is a saying, “If someone falls in the pit you pick them right back up.” For Masked Ataraxia, that’s something they want to represent through their photos for the seasoned hardcore veterans, rookies looking to get into the scene and for the mere average observer.
“Masked gives people a bit of a different perspective on the hardcore scene because growing up in Salinas and the 831 when we were in high school people would always come to us and be like, ‘You’re one of those rocker foos right?’” Diaz shares. “I feel like a lot of people know that music style, but maybe they’re a bit scared or not comfortable with it. But the idea is that we capture a shot, send it out there and we give a little bit of a different perspective of what people would think.”
Although most of their stellar photography is centered around capturing the hardcore scene going on in the 831, Masked Ataraxia has been focusing on different genres of music and art. Regardless of whether it’s hardcore punk or not, Diaz and the collective he has brought together are using photography as an art form to best represent their community and capture the moments that live on after any photo is taken.
“There are times where we catch ourselves taking too many photos because we don’t want to always live in the moment but we definitely want to capture a moment to share and post it with everyone who was involved so people can be like, ‘Oh snap that actually looks cool, I want to go out there and experience that for myself.’”
To see what the Salinas and 831 scene is all about, check out @maskedataraxia on Instagram.