I am honestly blessed. I am connecting with a wonderful collection of professional Latino photographers. To date, I have had many peaks and valleys with Latinos Behind The Lens. But I was placed on a massive high when Ibarionex Perello recommended that Robert Rodriguez reach out to me.
And why was I on a high? Well, because Ibarionex is a seriously accomplished photographer. And I respect him. But if I am being honest -- I have never heard of Robert Rodriguez until I received an email from him. So I went through my initial due diligence and checked out:
I can honestly say that I spent about two hours on Rodriguez's site.
- I took LOTS of notes
- Shared articles with my social channels
- And ultimately, reached out to Robert for an interview
To say that Robert is a photographer is a poor description. He is an inspiration -- who takes his love of landscape photography and infuses that with his love of helping others reach their individual photographic goals.
LBTL: Many start their photographic journey believing that great photography is about great hardware and software. Is this true?
RR: I think this is a common misconception amongst both new photographers and the public at large. Not everyone believes this of course, but I think it's more widespread in today's world given the reliance on digital technology. It's so easy to make good photographs with today's cameras, but for me great photography is about connecting emotionally with the viewer. That can only come from vision and commitment.
By vision I mean a particular way of seeing that goes beyond what's in front of the lens, and conveys to the viewer what the photographer thought and felt. For that to happen, you need a commitment to your opinion, to your vision, and to working at making images that are always consistent with who you are as a person and human being. All of these things ultimately transcend the gear and make the biggest difference in the work you produce.
LBTL: Do you think that it's more important to tell a great story through photography. Or do you need to be at a great location to tell a great story?
RR: For me as a landscape photographer I'm always seeking great locations that I can connect with emotionally and help tell a particular story. But my experience has shown me that an image that can go beyond the location will always make a more meaningful photograph. I see so many photographers seeking out that elusive image at that iconic location, but again if there isn't a real emotional connection, it's going to be difficult to tell a personal story.
It's happened to me so many times that the locations I know the best, which happen to the ones I visit the most often, are the ones that seem to reveal something special to me most often. If I'm open enough to the moment and the opportunity, I have a chance to capture something truly special.
LBTL: How has being a Latino photographer influenced your art?
RR: That's a really difficult question because there isn't one particular aspect of being Hispanic that I can point to. My parents raised me to feel comfortable among people of all cultures, and so I think that's been an advantage in certain situations. Plus I was fortunate to grow up in NYC, so that also made it easier for me to appreciate many viewpoints as well as gain the confidence to form my own. For me nature is the great unifier, bringing us all together on the planet as humans, and I try to make that as clear and direct in my images.
Having said that, others have told me that they are proud of what I've accomplished, and they'd like to see more Hispanics doing what I'm doing. That does give me a deeper sense of conviction, and it makes my career and all the effort I put into it, that much more meaningful.
But at the end of the day, I just try to keep it simple and do what I love. If nothing else, that's a privilege I try not to take for granted, and I'm always willing to help anyone else who comes along the same path, regardless of their background.
LBTL: As an educator are you seeing more Latino photographers picking up the camera or not enough picking up the camera? Why?
RR: I think I'm seeing more picking up the camera, though not as many as I'd like in the nature and landscape world. I think a big part of that is due to the huge investment of time and energy that landscape photography requires, plus perhaps a lack of mentors and role models.
But again, if you're passionate about photography and nature, there's enough resources available online for free to keep you inspired for a long time. And I'm just trying to make the biggest contribution that I can to that, whether someone wants to make it a passion or a career.
LBTL: What advice can you give Latino photographers who are searching for a place in the industry?
RR: That's pretty easy -- be yourself. Then study and work as hard as you can. Learn from as many people and disciplines as possible. And not just other photographers, but other artists, whether musicians, painters, or writers. There are great and inspiring Latinos working in all of these areas, and that alone should give you lots of ideas and inspiration.
Finally don't let anyone tell you what you can and can't do. Regardless of your background, ethnicity, or skin color, the world needs you to express your voice, and wants to see your photography -- make it count. That's what I teach because I believe it wholeheartedly.
Call To Action
I can't really say much more than what Robert has already touched on. But I will emphasize "don't let anyone tell you what you can and can't do." Living an ordinary life is rather boring and unfulfilling. But by living an extraordinary life -- amazing things will happen.