Even with the seemingly cold surface of big city life in her home of New York City, photographer Gina Vasquez manages to find moments of nature's warmth to fuel the creation of cinematic photographs that share the story of her vibrant inner life. Gina has led an expressive life playing multiple instruments and studying art history while pouring her creative energy into the pursuit of conceptual photography.
Exploring the depths of her emotions and experiences, each power packed image is meant to stir an emotional response in her audience while inspiring a sense of quiet self reflection. Though she describes herself as shy, she has found a community of photographers to share in her creative spirit, often using herself and other creatives as models.
We were grateful for the opportunity to catch up with Gina for a Behind The Lens look into her creative photography.
Can you tell us a bit about your journey into photography?
I started photography when I was seventeen. I was online doing research for a homework assignment, when I clicked on a random link that brought me to a fine art photograph. I realized what powerful stories and emotions you could convey and have people relate to through one single picture, and I was hooked from then on. I knew that I just had to start making creative photographs. I didn't have a camera yet and until I was able to get one a few months later, I read hundreds of articles about cameras and things like aperture and (of course!) bokeh. Once I started shooting I joined Flickr, the photo sharing website, and kept experimenting, learning, and connecting with other young photographers. It wasn't long after until I started a 52 week project, and then, a 365 project, taking one photo a day for a year.
What are some of your interests?
Besides photography, my other main interest is music. I play the piano and flute and am a gigantic fan of anything and everything that has to do with classical music. I also like to read, go running, visit museums, spend time with friends and family, and be out in nature.
You are based out of New York City, how do you find such serene and peaceful locations?
When I first started photography, I didn't like living in the city! That reflected in my photographs, and led me to seek out spots that were as nature-oriented as possible. Since then, public parks and beaches have been my go-to for peaceful locations.
Each photograph tells such a story, how do you stay inspired?
Thank you! I am very much inspired by music and poetry, as well as my own experiences and emotions. Living in NYC means that there is always something to observe and be inspired by, and everything I see influences my art in one way or another.
How much planning goes into a shoot?
Now that I've finished my 365 project, I find myself planning almost every photo in advance. The amount of planning is different for each picture – the more specific the location/time of day has to be, the more thought that needs to be put into how props will be set up (or in a lot of cases, how to find certain props in the first place!) or if I have to shoot with post-processing in mind, determines the planning. I tend to plan a concept the moment it pops into my head, and usually keep tweaking it little by little until it's just right.
A lot of your portfolio is made of up self-portraits, can you tell us what you do to set up a shot?
I set up the props and tripod angle, and then add myself to the setup, take some test photos with my camera remote to make sure everything is right, and start shooting!
Your portfolio is a mix of fellow photographers, do you think it's important to work with other creatives?
Yes, definitely! Working with a community of people who understand you as a photographer and want to create the same crazy things you do is an experience like no other. It's great to watch other photographers in action and see things from their point of view.
What is your favorite time of day to shoot?
I love the atmosphere right before and right after sunset.
How would you define your style?
Whimsical, creative, and colorful.
What message do you want your photographs to convey?
Photography has always been a means of self-expression for me, and each photograph conveys something different, but I ultimately want people to be able to relate and connect with whatever message I'm portraying.
Your photographs are so full of life and contrast, how much post processing goes into a completed photo to achieve what you are looking for?
It all depends! Some photos take a couple minutes, others hours.
What challenges have you faced while creating?
There is always the challenge of being at the mercy of weather, or having to beat the clock so the lighting doesn't change in the middle of a shoot! One of the biggest challenges I've had to overcome is being shy and embarrassed about shooting in public. Pretty much anywhere you go in NYC, there's going to be crowds of people and shooting with a life sized skeleton at the beach in the summer or having dogs attracted to your props only increases the crowd!
What's a must have in your gear bag?
My 50mm f/1.8 – always! I never go anywhere without it. I also carry an extra battery, (at least) two extra memory cards, my camera remote, and a couple hair ties (they come in handy for just about everything!)
What are your plans for the future?
Besides taking more photos and learning more music, I'm looking forward to finishing out my degree in Art History and Museum Studies, and seeing where God leads me.
Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?
Learn as much as you can, really get to know your camera, read a lot about photography, and get out and experiment a lot! Don't be afraid to just go out and create, even if it doesn't turn out the way you want at first – you WILL get there!
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