Abraham Menor appreciates the power of a good story, especially one previously untold. In his early twenties, he picked up a camera to document some of the stories he stumbled upon during his volunteer work or the ones he saw in the form of street art and the culture surrounding it.

Combining his interests in sociology and art, he took portraits of forgotten war veterans and community volunteers, pictures of hip-hop artists and other local subcultures. Eventually, he amassed a volume of images documenting life in the South Bay, a collection of experiences he plans to compile in a book due out next year. We caught up with him to find out what he’s up to lately.

SanJose.com: What brought you to San Jose?

Family. I was born in Mountain View, but have lived most of my life in San Jose.       

What do you do for work?

I work for a nonprofit agency called Fresh Lifelines for Youth. I work with youth going through the juvenile justice program. I’m a program manager. I’ve been here for eight years.
Tell us about your photography.

I do documentary street photography. It is, in a sense, about capturing stories. Sometimes it can tie in with the work that I do, like around social issues, but not necessarily. It can focus on anything around immigration reform to issues affecting youth or the elderly.

What projects do you have in the works right now?

I’m working on a book right now, an anthology of 15 years worth of photography. It’s kind of like a photojournal, where I put a comment for every photograph to explain something about it, maybe why I took it or what’s going on. It’s a lot of street photography, travel, social work that I do in the community, hip-hop culture. I want to take the viewer through a little ride, to show them what’s happening in my work over the years.

When did you first pick up a camera?

Forever ago, like in ’97 or ’98. I started taking pictures of graffiti, murals and street art. Then I started seriously getting into documentary photography when I began focusing on these Filipino World War II veterans. They weren’t getting their full benefits as veterans. I was captivated by their story. I would take pictures of these men, who were in their 70s and 80s, and would be able to give them print-outs of the pictures that they could share with their families and send some back home to the Philippines. No one else paid attention to their stories, so it meant a lot that they got to have these photos.

What do you love most about San Jose?

I love our weather. I love the diversity and the culture. What I love about San Jose is that I think we have a very unique culture because we don’t have the fast-crazy pace that S.F. or Oakland has, but we still have the diversity and different cultures. I think that’s the one thing I love the most about living in the South Bay. I think also, San Jose has a close-knit community when it comes to art and social work and we have an opportunity to get know each other.

Where would you have your last meal on earth?

My mother’s house.

What inspires you?

Young people who have dreams.
Where is a cool place to take an out-of-towner?

I would take them on a taco truck tour of East San Jose and we would eat our hearts to death.

Name your favorite hole-in-the-wall place to grub?

This is a hard one; it would have to be either Antipastos or Pho 54.

Where’s the best place to get a cup of coffee in San Jose?

Philz Coffee. Large Turkish, please.

Name your favorite upcoming San Jose event.

Subzero Festival in downtown San Jose.

Name three things every local should do this fall in San Jose.

First, help someone in need or less fortunate and volunteer at a soup kitchen or food distribution center. Simple. Second, go to a gallery and purchase a holiday gift for a loved one there instead of the mall and support local. Lastly, enjoy a cup of coffee at the Municipal Rose Garden while the roses are in bloom.

More of Abraham Menor’s work at http://brainsoiled.com/.