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Capturing the Brown Experience Through Photography

A Profile on Latina Photographer, Andrea Flores

Demonstrated through the lack of equality in commissioning, publication, and exhibition, the photography industry has dissuaded women from picking up the camera for decades while men are offered most of the opportunities to succeed. But new generations have been pushing for platforms to be given to all perspectives instead of the few, privileged voices that hold the limelight. 

Andrea Flores’s photography has grown from a favorite pastime into an instrument that challenges the boundaries set up by the white, male-dominated photography industry. The first-year business student has been involved in past organizations such as Word Agency, LACMA, LA84, The Children’s Clinic, and more. But the one she looks back on the most fondly is Las Fotos Project, a non-profit organization centered around giving young girls of color the opportunity to express themselves through photography and mentorship. “With LFP, I’ve had my own solo exhibition titled ‘Growing Up’ which is based on the relationships I have with people and what it is like to be me,” Flores said over the phone.

“I survived the night without dying, (we were talking about hot cheetos).” Image credit: Andrea Flores

Flores uses film photography to capture the moments of flickering youth, focusing on her friends, the places she grew up, her community, and the spatial mobility of Los Angeles. She utilizes the sense of freedom and rebellion that comes alongside adolescence and uses this to challenge the obstacles of an industry filled with people who work to keep underrepresented perspectives unseen. 

Flores was initially introduced to photography by her mother. As a child, she was always fascinated by the photography her mother did for fun, which ultimately led to her own fascination in the world behind the lens. 

“Feels like mid90s.” Image credit: Andrea Flores

“I’m what they call a darkroom photographer,” she explains. Originally involved in digital photography, Flores decided to partake in LFP’s darkroom semester two years ago and fell in love with it ever since. “Film photography is also an interesting medium because you never see your results until after the process.” 

The process of film photography and development plays an essential role in Flores’s creative process. She claims, “[I] go with the flow. I get my camera one day, I get an idea and I just do it.” Flores isn’t interested in capturing the still, sterile moments of her life. Instead, she focuses on movement, skating, the subcultures hidden within Los Angeles, and the everchanging fluidity of youth. 

“We should make an LFP vlog.” Image credit: Andrea Flores

She also focuses on showing the beauty of brown skin. She actively challenges the exclusion of models of color by encouraging them to embrace and absorb not just their own identities but the identities of those around them in the spaces we all inhabit. 

Flores sees photography as more than a way to showcase her perspective to the world; it is also her safe space, a place to express her creativity with no judgment. “Photography is a journal, it is something I carry with myself,” Flores stated. Despite the weight of its expectations and restrictions, she doesn’t carry it as a burden. Instead, it is something she bears proudly, confronting the limitations imposed upon her by going directly against them.

In the future, Flores hopes to gain widespread recognition for her work, not just as a photographer, but as the person of multiple identities behind the camera. She wants people to understand the world through different perspectives, and she wants them to appreciate and embrace these different trains of thought. However, above all else she wants young girls of color to be able to dream beyond what previous generations could. 

“Jasper Bones V-Day show.” Image credit: Andrea Flores

And how does she hope to accomplish this? “The long term goals I have are to be an in-house photographer for a band or work with a magazine,” Flores declares, passion thick in her voice. “I would really like to work with my dear friends Romina Estrada, Natalia Angeles, and Jackie Rosas. Our styles are different but still go hand in hand.” 

Not only does Flores strive to be inclusive in what she photographs, but in the methods she incorporates to the process behind it as well. Flores understands that expanding beyond the constraints of a white, male-dominated industry is a learning process that she is willing to navigate in order to pave the way for others.

Dia de Los Muertos: Hollywood Forever Cemetery

On November 2, Hollywood Forever hosted its 14th annual Dia de Los Muertos. The theme for the celebration was El Magico Mundo de Los Alebrijes, brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of magical creatures. The event featuring an altar contest, arts and crafts, food and local vendors, a Calaca costume contest, and live performances, highlighting special performers such as Saul Hernandez and Buyepongo. Photos by Melissa Merrill and Erika Ramirez

 

Dia de Los Muertos: UCLA Grupo de Folklorico

Grupo Folklorico de UCLA hosted its annual Dia de Los Muertos celebration on campus in Ackerman Grand Ballroom. The event featured dance performances, a community altar, face painting, arts & crafts, and Pan de Muerto. Special guest performers included Conjunto Tenocelomeh, Cabeza de Vaca Cultural School, and Ballet Folklorico Alma de Oro de Carson. Photos by Mayra Jones, Melissa Merrill, and Erika Ramirez

Dia de Los Muertos: Self Help Graphics

A Día de Los Muertos Celebration was hosted by Self Help Graphics & Art, located on East 1st Street in Boyle Heights. Along with vendors and face painting, there was musical entertainment and altars. Little shops were set up to sell many Día de Los Muertos themed clothes and trinkets, while food vendors sold various things, from pan de muerto to elotes. People dressed in elegant costumes and had elaborate face paintings. The venue was filled with interesting, friendly people from nearby communities, creating an inviting and extremely fun environment throughout the night. Photos by Mayra Jones and Madelinn Ornelas

Dia de Los Muertos: Placita Olvera

The Dia de Los Muertos celebration at Placita Olvera took place from October 25 through November 2. During this time, there were candlelit Novenario processions every night with free pan dulce and champurrado offered at the end. On the actual Day of the Dead, hundreds of people were able to enjoy face painting, Aztec dancers, folklorico, strolling mariachi bands, and street theater performances. Traditional community and merchant altars were on display outdoors in the Plaza area as well. Photos by Mayra Jones

Art photography by Abelardo Morell

What credits a photograph as art?

Nowadays, it is  hard to think of that possibility with all the new technologies and apps meant to improve photography so you can share them on all the social networks with only a click and a few filter changes. Thinking of photographs as art is now very questionable.

Also, with the trivialization of photography – where everyone has become an “Instagram” photographer, sharing pictures of their daily meals, cute pets and “selfies” that show how great they look in an elevator’s mirror – it is quite understandable how professional photographers are easily losing their credibility.

When looking at these issues it’s quite odd to believe in photography as art. Yet, they develop complex themes, use different and innovative ways of photographing, while not forgetting the most important factor: the possibility of making people feel certain emotions only by looking at their pictures.

Abelardo Morell is one of those photographers. Born in Cuba, but raised in America, he can be called an artist. By using the earlier techniques of photography, such as Camera Obscura, Photogram, Cliché-Verres and also various simple but yet very strong objects, such as tents, he created a unique kind of photography, and for those reasons he became an artist photographer who has his work exhibited in many famous museums and galleries.

What is most interesting about Morell’s work is the way he develops his photos’ themes, which go deeply into the photo, making a strong and relevant, simple everyday photograph. One of his collections is entitled “Books”, where he used actual books to create shadows and lights through different angles and positions and demonstrated the art of photography.
Books_02Another good example is his incredible work, “Camera Obscura”, in which he darkened rooms and made small holes that would reveal the outside as images reflected inside those rooms. He used this technique of photography to create a very colorful and illuminating snapshot; he also did it in black & white photography. With “Camera Obscura” he proved that it’s possible to be avant-garde by still using old ideas.
CameraObscura_01The collection “Tent” is similar to “Camera Obscura”, but it has a unique element that Morrell used to create these photos. By using a tent as a tool for his photographs, he shows the audience that we can use all kinds of elements, the most simple ones, to create strong pictures. What matters here are the “eyes”, all the different looks you implement to make a photo unique and singular. This is what makes photography an art , and Abelardo knows very well how to do it.

Tent_03You can see all these incredible pictures of Abelardo Morell at The Getty Museum, until January 14th. If you like photography and if you like art, don’t miss it!

Go to http://www.thegetty.edu for more information.
All images from: http://www.abelardomorell.net.