1) What was the first camera you owned and what do you shoot with now?
My first camera was a 1967 Nikomat. My mother bought it secondhand when she moved to Los Angeles from Colombia to be an art student. I remember it had a cold metal trim and a satisfying shutter. The light meter was a bit wonky - I swear it would bounce up and down when the wind blew. But the best part was the embroidered pink and white camera strap. Either my brother or I lost the Nikomat at some point--so sad!
2) What's in your main camera: Film or Memory Card?
Memory card. My film camera got stolen about ten years ago and I never got around to replacing it. Someday...
Tosh Kuratomi Waits with his Dog
. Otow Orchards. Granite Bay, California. USA 2011.
3) If you had access to any photographic equipment you wanted for a day, what would you choose?
That 1969 Nikomat. I'm a low maintenance photographer. All I need is a good camera, one lens, and a steady tripod.
4) What classes are you teaching?
I teach digital 1
and two professional development classes. Artist toolkit 1
focuses on building a portfolio. All of those documents like an artist statement, bio, resume, and digital portfolio that we avoid producing or have a lot of questions and fear about. In that class we put together a whole packet in the span of a few short weeks. It's very satisfying to see it all come together and to hear about the confidence so many people gain by getting the basics together. Artist toolkit 2
centers around strategies for exhibition and as part of the class we produce a show at Rayko. The students gain so much experience and insight from curation to press and hanging a picture straight.
5) What are the top reasons someone should take your class ?
All of my classes are very hands-on. I believe we learn by doing and I want everyone to come away with practical, real-world information and techniques that let the creativity hang out. I have had the wildest ranges of interests in my classes -- it would be so boring if I taught everyone to shoot or edit their work in a particular way. My goal isn't to teach you how to take the pictures I think you should take, but to help you communicate your ideas.
Un Tinto en la Hacienda. Valle del Cauca, Colombia. 2011.
6) What was the last art opening you went to?
Hmm... I was out of town all summer! It's been a while.
7) What part of RayKo's facilities do you use the most?
8) Bought any good photo books lately?
Yes! I'm quite food obsessed. I guess by default that makes Omnivore Books my favorite photo book store. I was in London for the Olympics and picked up Moro East
, a wonderful cookbook based on a community garden plot (that was sadly displaced because of the Olympics) of many family gardeners from Turkey, Cyprus, and Syria. My Sweet Mexico
by Fany Gerson is another new-ish favorite. I love hearty, satisfying food with deep roots in big cities. I think it's so important that most of the food in these books is photographed where its made. It makes you want to dig in.
9) Recent work that has caught your eye?
I just went to the MoMa exhibit Century of the Child and the Russian Constructivist photomontage books were just awesome. The way that image, graphics and text were used just looks so fresh. One color, a pile of photographs, scissors, and tape. I'm thinking of artists like Vavara Stepanova and Alexander Rodchenko in the 1920s and 30s. I guess that's not necessarily recent--more recently on the brain. I like the idea of the photograph being a physical thing that you make into something else.
La Hacienda (Interior). Valle del Cauca, Colombia. 2011.
10) What are you currently working on and where can we see it?
I recently participated in a panel produced by the Asian Culinary Forum
about the intersection of Asian and Latino food based on my own family history. It made me think about how I have documented their farms and food over the years and how I might frame that as a new body of work. The act of photographing something or someone can bring us together or produce a barrier or an obstacle. Often, coming into a kitchen to take pictures is a wonderful excuse to get to know someone better. There can be real value in showing someone, through photography, that you think what they do every day is valuable and should be considered and documented--of course it's also important to respect their agency. With all of that in mind I'm working on a new website that I'll reveal once it's up and running.
I also have an opening at Asterisk SF Gallery
in San Francisco Tuesday, October 16th 7-10pm
for a solo show called Gracias Calle 24
and I'm the bathroom resident at 18 Reasons
for the next year with the first opening Thursday, October 4th
. Yes, this means I'm making art for a bathroom. An interesting challenge.