“The ‘Miss Behave’ photo series is about girls who are between five and twelve years old, they represent a specific group of the young female community in the United States. They are from Hispanic descent; their parents are immigrants in the US. Despite their age, they have a combination of beauty and confidence that intrigues me.”
Karen Arango (born in 1990) is a contemporary photographer currently based in Sarasota, Florida (USA). She studied photography at “Ringling College of Art and Design” and “International Center of Photography”. For Karen Arango photography is a means to explore identity issues.
Interview with Karen Arango
Karen, why did you become a photographer?
Because I have always enjoyed observing.
What was your most memorable moment shooting pictures?
The most memorable moment shooting pictures was one day when I met a slumdog for the first time, we had breakfast together because an aunt of mine had given him some food in exchange of work around the house. She told me of his story and I felt extremely touched and spoiled. Since that day I became interested in humanist photography, and my perspective in life completely changed.
You were born in Colombia and in 1999 you decided to move to the USA. Why?
I moved from Colombia to the United States in 1999 with my family because the safety situation was not very good back then.
How has the cross-cultural experience influenced your work as a photographer?
My family and I went through a lot of struggles which forced me to experience things at a very a young age.
What does photography mean to you? And what do you want to transmit with your pictures? And in other words: What is it at all that a photograph can say? Especially keeping in mind the over abundance of photographic imagery in today’s society.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
Sebastiao Salgado, Mary Ellen mark, Steve McCurry. They have the ability to capture true humanism in a beautiful photograph.
Your favorite quote about photography?
“I don’t believe a person has a style. What people have is a way of photographing what is inside them. What is there comes out.”
One of your projects is called “Miss Behave” in which you are dealing with the identity of young girls with a Hispanic background. How did you come up with that idea and can you tell a little more what it is about?
“As I photographed them we established a connection, I got to learn about their culture.”
The “Miss Behave” photo series is about girls who are between five and twelve years old, they represent a specific group of the young female community in the United States. They are from Hispanic descent; their parents are immigrants in the US. Despite their age, they have a combination of beauty and confidence that intrigues me, and they show an inner strength that makes them extremely powerful individuals.
As I photographed them we established a connection, I got to learn about their culture and I reflected on my own story as an immigrant female living in America.
At the beginning of each project one often has some kind of idea in mind as to what the result could be like. Sometimes that changes along the way and the result is quite different. Was that the case and if so what did you learn during the project?
Yes that was the case and it is still the case. During the project, I learned that we must be flexible with our ideas.
How would you describe your photographic language and creative process? How do you plan and execute a project?
I don’t usually plan a project. I like to let it come from the heart. I like to feel the moment first and then I think about how I am going to use the work.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work – technically and conceptually?
I don’t crop in photoshop. I prefer to frame best when I am shooting and use the right settings in order to have the least post production work I can. This way it stays more natural.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need? Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
Honest, humble, and open-minded.
What kind of camera and equipment do you use?
I use a Canon 5D, Canon AE1 and a Rolleiflex.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a (professional) photographer?
Be yourself and don’t think, just do.
More about Karen Arango