City of Roses

In March, by chance, I ran into my friend Gabriel.

He invited me to participate in City of Roses, a photography show he imagined for Duel Brewing in Albuquerque. The focus of the show: a celebration of New Mexico-born women of color.

Now, it happens that I’ve really wanted to photograph women of color, in studio. And I have a number of friends who by no coincidence are women of color. The coincidence was that they all happened to be at Duel Brewing that very night. Kismet?

Each of these women—Anna Martínez, Brandy Montaño, Eva Marisol Crespín, Gigi Guajardo, Jasmine Cuffee, and ABQ Poet Laureate Emerita Jessica Helen Lopez—came to my little living room studio, ready to work.

Portrait photography is a tragically misunderstood art.

In the age of school photos and JC Penny pink-and-purple marble, a lot of people understandably see it as a sacrifice. You’ll mug for a while, then you’ll have pictures. Which you’ll hate. But they’ll be pictures. Professional pictures!

Obviously, the selfie has changed our attitude about portraiture, but it’s not a substitute for a photographer who knows what they’re doing. And that’s where most of us tend to leave it: “Well, they have the camera, so they must know what they’re doing.” That leaves out the essential ingredients of great portraits: connection, safety, and letting go.

My kind of portraiture is about signs of life.

Candid moments, made just for us, in the studio. Working with these amazing women last month, I’ve been thinking about bravery. They’ve each come into my studio excited and concerned. And they’ve let go. For my part, I’ve met them there, coaching them to do little things, while they tell stories, respond to prompts, try the crazy face-scrunching positions I insist on, and we laugh, and we make pictures.

Creating this space used to terrify me. But once I got some great instruction, and practiced enough that I could trust my process, I realized portraiture actually plays to my strengths. I love creating spaces, and creating space for people to show me themselves. These six brave women came into my space, shook out their demons, and made themselves flesh and spirit for my lens.

I’m honored to participate in City of Roses this month.

I’ll be showing with a grip of other talented Burque photographers (all links are to Instagram):

If you’re in town this Friday, May 5, come down to Duel and help us celebrate dozens of New Mexican women of color. The ABQ Poetry Slam team will perform, nearly a dozen photographers will be around to blush politely while you gush over their work, and beer… the beer will flow.

The awesome women who sat for me

Anna Martínez

Brandy Montaño

Eva Marisol Crespín

Gigi Bella

Jasmine Sena y Cuffee

Jessica Hellen Lopez

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The author

I bring 11 years as a professional writer and designer, as well as my feminism, ecological philosophies, and editorial aesthetic to photography. When no one's looking, I bring my sense of humor, too.

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