Photographer of the Month: Emily Rose Brown

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Coney Island, Winter 2015 by Emily Rose Brown 

What have you learned about yourself from being a creator?

I have learned how to better understand myself through allowing the process and product of my art to reflect back to me. Photography has allowed me to bring to life the world as I see it. I first started doing what I call “assisted self-portraits” (where I style myself, set up the shot and then have someone simply press the shutter) as a way to artistically document my outfits . It gave me the confidence to see myself in the way I feel and imagine. It got to the point though where I would just have so many rolls filled with images of myself and I was bored of me! I realized that my friends I would have take my pictures were who I wanted to photograph. All of my friends are so beautiful and I was compelled to capture that. I wanted to reflect back to them the beauty I saw. Writing, drawing, embroidering, sculpting, and photography have all been means of creation that have allowed me to process my experiences and encouraged my curiosity about the world we live in. Self-expression is something incredibly precious in each one of us and being able to connect to others and encourage their own self-expression is a gift I realized through my own process.

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East Los Angeles, Summer 2016 by Emily Rose Brown 

Who or what inspires you to engage in photography?

I am inspired by the magic that happens everyday. The way the sun on my face reassures me to keep going, the way the voice of a friend makes me giddy, the way a hug from my mom fills my heart, the way sharing a bus ride with strangers in a new place makes me curious–all these feelings inspire me to capture them through an image and I am deeply inspired when others art evokes genuine feelings within myself.

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Western Mass, Winter 2016 by Emily Rose Brown

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Photographer of the Month: Emily Rose Brown

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Leimert Park, Festival of Masks: Day of Ancestors, Summer 2016 by Emily Rose Brown


Is there something you can’t help but take a photo of?

I am really drawn to color, things that catch my eye are almost always related to color– blocks of color, contrasting colors, complementary colors! I am also drawn to places where nature and industry meet. Growing up in the Bay Area, nature is almost always present; the mountains, hills, bodies of water, and parks that exist even within cityscapes have allowed me to appreciate both and especially their juxtaposition.

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From the “Embodiment” Series by Emily Rose Brown


Are there any specific messages you try to convey in your images?

When I’m out and something catches my eye, I don’t usually have a message, again it is more emotionally motivated. Many of my fashion shoots are just about creating images that are aesthetically pleasing and capturing the colors, textures, and environment. The series I’m working on right now (“Embodiment”) does have a definite message though; I am using photography, and accompanying interviews, as a means of visual protest and storytelling.  I want to draw attention to the way popular media depicts and represents marginalized people and reimagine how their stories are presented. Our social issues of police brutality, systemic violence and oppression need to be addressed but these images, videos and narratives circulating in the media of POC, women, disabilities, LGBTQ community, survivors, and all other marginalized people can be very damaging to viewers. With “Embodiment” I am interested in producing an uplifting counter-narrative through showcasing a wide variety of people presenting their own experiences. My images strive to dismantle assumptions about people based on appearance, and allow them to choose how they present themselves and tell their stories.

 

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South Los Angeles, Summer 2016 by Emily Rose Brown

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From the “Embodiment” Series by Emily Rose Brown 


Photographer of the Month: Emily Rose Brown

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Bay Area, Summer 2015 by Emily Rose Brown

What parts of your identity do you transfer into your photography?

I think I transfer my youthfulness into my images, a sense of discovering the world for oneself and a youthful wonderment and vulnerability. I don’t know if I would call myself a dancer but dancing is deeply therapeutic for me and I transfer this sense of motion through my poses and in the way I direct people, as well as capturing synchronicity with the surrounding environment. I also transfer my femme identity into my images; I mostly shoot with femmes and am always drawn to hairstyles, makeup, accessories, but it comes through in the quality of my images which I feel are strong but soft.

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Western Mass, Winter 2015 by Emily Rose Brown 

Does your photography have any cathartic elements for you?

Definitely! Photography allows me to bask in moments of magic, and capture those feelings. It gives me the release of escape from the routines and stress of everyday life and enter a new world of adventure and discovery. Shooting analogue helps me to slow down my thought process and focus on composition and lighting more closely. Not being able to see a photo right away gives a greater sense of importance and attention to the photos I take. For me photography is all about feeling, I want to share an emotion or give a glimpse into another world. Photography always feels like an adventure to me, of uncovering things hidden and things in plain sight.

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Bay Area, Summer 2015 by Emily Rose Brown

 

Photographer of the Month: Alex Romero

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Untitled by Alex Romero

“I love all the shades of green around this nopal, I feel like they all pop out in their own way.”

Rios: Is there something you can’t help but take a photo of?

Alex: That’s a hard question for me. Nopales (cacti) and sunsets are some of my favorite things to capture. Sunsets are so magical because there are so many different colors and it’s just amazing to witness how the Earth is creating something so magical and unreal. Nopales are also my favorite to capture because they remind me of my culture and of my ancestors and they remind me of being resilient.

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Untitled by Alex Romero

“This photo makes me happy because to me the community means so much to me and also seeing people of color taking up space and coming together to dance, without them there is no Los Angeles.”

Rios: What have you learned about yourself from being a creator?

Alex: I have learned that as an artist, as I’m growing and learning, so does my art. It reflects through my photos how they’ve progressed and gotten better, I believe that there’s always room for progress and growth.

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After the Storm by Alex Romero

“It had been raining that day for so long, I remember looking up that day and seeing the light hitting this palm tree so perfectly I had to take a photo.”

******

If you want to see more magical photography, follow Alex on IG: tinyavocado

Photographer of the Month: Alex Romero

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Neon Leaves by Alex Romero

“I have this thing about neon lights/signs, I don’t know exactly what attracts me to neon lights but I can’t help getting photos of some. This was taken outside a Mexican restaurant around my neighborhood, I was doing laundry that day. Don’t they make a great combo together?”

Rios: What parts of your identity do you transfer into your photography?

Alex: I try to bring different parts of my identity into my photography such as parts of my Chicana culture, or things and places I find nostalgic to my childhood or neighborhoods,such as the people in those cities.

I also like to bring my feelings into photos, for instance sadness, humor, feeling joyful, whether capturing that through the colors of the weather or other surroundings or people in the streets.

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Santa’s Little Helpers by Alex Romero

“I took this one in Tijuana around December when I went to pick up my grandma. We stopped by El Centro and I saw these employees with Santa hats, thought they were adorable.”

Rios: Are there any specific messages you try to convey in your images?

Alex: Some messages I try to show in my photos with both scenery/nature and street photography is to look beyond your surroundings throughout your day. I often feel that there are little things and/or people in daily life that get unnoticed.I want people to look around their neighborhoods more often or the people, maybe there’s a mural they have never seen or certain people who are always at a certain spot. I want people to get off their phones and just take some time to appreciate life. Sometimes I feel like the reason I capture certain images of people in the streets is because they remind me of something or cause an emotion that I want others to feel through the image I captured.

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Reflecting by Alex Romero

“This was taken in Joshua Tree a little bit after taking this photo my friends and I drove to this side of Joshua Tree and we started climbing on some rocks. That was a heavy week for me, I had a lot in my mind. I took time to sit on one of the rocks and meditate, I got chills after a while feeling the wind in my face as the sun kept setting and thinking of my ancestors and what my purpose in life is. I reflected so much of what my indigenous ancestors have gone through. I had my mind a lot on the water protectors and my eyes just started watering down of feeling heartbroken of what’s currently still happening at Standing Rock. It was definitely healing to reflect and meditate amongst the desert.”

*****

If you want to see more magical photography, follow Alex on IG: tinyavocado

Amerikkka/We Are Still Here by Esperanza Cisneros

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Esperanza marching in LA

Amerikkka

Invasion
Colonization
Genocide

I survived, you survived, we survived

Amerikkka
The land that weeps, the land that bleeds
Oh, how our mother still hurts…

Nothing has changed, but the time
So here I will leave this rhyme
To remind…

Do not believe the lies, believe the crimes
Upon us, the people of the lands
For over 500 years
By those, the pale skinned
Do not let them continue…

Poisoning our bodies, our minds
We must unite, it is our time
The 7th generation…
We shall rise

Decolonize
Decolonize
Decolonize

******

We Are Still Here

We are still here,
Our voices will be heard

We are still here,
With pride, we stand united!

We are still here
Remaining strong and full of light!

Don’t forget that we have been here,
You erased us, but we are still here- fighting

We are still here
Forever we shall remain,
Tell’ em all we are going nowhere!

This poem by Esperanza Cisneros was first published in Devyn Galindo’s book Titled “We Are Still Here” on November 18, 2016 at MCAU art gallery in Echo park California.

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Bio: “I’m Esperanza Cisneros. I’ve been writing since I was 7 years old. I use my words in order to heal and accept the reality we live in, which can at times be very troubling especially for people of colour. I hope to give others comfort through my writing by expressing that we are not alone in our feelings, we aren’t as as different as we think.”

Personal Essay: A Night in San Juan by Christine Stoddard

A Night in San Juan by Christine Stoddard

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Image by gemsounds (2013)

When I think of San Juan, Puerto Rico, I think of the Santa María Magdalena de Pazzis Cemetery nestled by the bay. Lost in reflection, I gazed out at the white tombstones and statuary huddled by the seawall.

My childhood best friend won a three-day vacation to San Juan in a sweepstakes, but couldn’t go because she was starting medical school. When she offered the prize to me, I immediately accepted. I turned in my final assignments for my summer classes and hopped on a bus from Richmond to New York. Once in Manhattan, my parents picked me up at the station and whisked me off to JFK. My parents were happy to do me the favor on their way to Connecticut.

I don’t remember the drive from Manhattan to Queens. What I do remember was sitting in my parents’ car for a few quiet moments after I had already said good-bye. My mother stopped me with “Wait.” Her look of utter trepidation made me wonder if she could bring herself to talk.

“What’s the matter?” I finally asked.
“Don’t get into any taxis by yourself,” she said.
I scoffed at her over-protectiveness, but regretted it when she added, “My mother was raped by a taxi driver.”
My annoyance dissipated. I was 22 and had never heard this before.

“When I was 14, my mother took a taxi alone and the driver pulled over to the side of the road and raped her,” she went on. “He dumped her in the ditch and left her for dead. When she regained her strength, she walked the rest of the way home. I was in the kitchen when I saw her clothes all torn up. She had terror in her eyes. I knew something horrible had happened.”

My mother shook as she told the story. All these years later, she still felt so much rage and sadness.

My mother rarely talks about growing up in El Salvador when the country was on the cusp of a bloody civil war that began when she was in her teens. She left for good when she was in her mid-twenties and moved to Miami to marry my father, an American journalist who had covered many Latin American conflicts.

By this point, the cars behind us were honking. I didn’t have much time to react other than to say I was sorry and I promised to be careful. I leaned forward to squeeze my mother’s quivering hand and then hopped out to catch my flight.

I was in a dreamlike state until I arrived in San Juan. Hyper-vigilant, I boarded a city bus at the airport to get to my hotel. I observed everyone on the bus and kept track of their movements, only looking outside to note my surroundings.

When I got to the hotel, I learned there was no room service, so I asked the clerk where to eat. He admitted the area was sort of a dead zone, but there was a Burger King a few blocks away. The area was not well lit and it was lonely at that hour. I was too hungry to consider options further afloat and set off into the night.

I think every woman has a natural fear of walking someone alone at night. Even if we’re strong, even if we’re fast, even if we’ve taken self-defense classes. What hope is there for us if we’ve been overpowered? My mother’s story had doubled my normal level of fear. I must’ve jumped two feet when a driver catcalled me and hyperventilated the rest of the way to Burger King. I placed my order, gulped down my sandwich, and then raced back to the hotel. Once I locked myself in my room, I felt all of my muscles relax and fell asleep from pure exhaustion.

Over the next couple days, I drifted from historical site to site, overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness. Usually, I enjoyed traveling alone because it allowed me to see exactly what I wanted at my own pace. Yet thinking of my grandmother’s rape meant I could only see myself as a target. It didn’t help matters that when I got on a tram and ended up chatting with a Mexican couple.

“¿Sola?” the wife repeated after I explained that, no, I wasn’t on holiday with my parents or boyfriend.

“Sí,” I said shyly, realizing what little confidence I now had in my original decision to come to San Juan by myself.

When I got off at my stop, the couple warned me once more to be careful.

I walked through the Castillo San Felipe del Morro completely preoccupied. I had taken most every precaution: dressing plainly, speaking Spanish, even avoiding alcohol altogether. No matter what I did, just by virtue of being a woman, I was an easy mark. Hour by hour, I became paralyzed with fear.

By the end of my first day in Puerto Rico, I almost couldn’t think. I forgot that the sun set earlier there than it did back home, so I found myself stranded after dark. I had walked the two miles from my hotel to Old San Juan in the light of day with no problem. But at night, that walk was quite a different experience. There wasn’t a bus that went between my hotel and Old San Juan, so I could either walk back or take a cab. I chose to walk.

The walk to the hotel was one of the most terrifying of my life because I had worked myself up into such a frenzy. Every man I passed was a potential predator. I entertained every sordid possibility until I just couldn’t take it anymore. I ended up shitting myself—literally. Humiliated, I tried my best to control my movements so my shit wouldn’t spread during the last leg of my journey.

Too embarrassed to take the elevator, I took the stairs to my room. I immediately threw myself into the bathroom. I peeled off my underwear, plopped the shit in the toilet, flushed it, and buried my underwear in the garbage can. I topped it off with a plush layer of toilet paper. Then I took a long, hot shower.

As I scrubbed myself clean, I thought about what it meant to be a woman in an unjust world. We must fear for our lives, yet we can’t let that fear consume us. We must learn to tame that fear and fight for a culture that doesn’t make fear a given part of womanhood.

I did not chastise myself for making the trip. The truth was despite people’s warnings, nothing horrible happened to me. The worst thing that occurred was something I did to myself: think myself in circles until I lost control. I saw San Juan, one of the most beautiful cities in the United States, and I did it alone. I proved to myself that, despite my female body, I could move through this world alone.

*****

Christine Stoddard is a Salvadoran-Scottish-American writer and artist who lives in Brooklyn. In addition to being the founding editor of Quail Bell Magazine, she is the author of Hispanic & Latino Heritage in Virginia (The History Press), Ova (Dancing Girl Press, 2017), and two miniature books from the Poems-For-All series. Her work has appeared in anthologies by Candlewick Press, Civil Coping Mechanisms, ELJ Publications, and other publishers.

Poetry: blest by Monique Quintana

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blest

When I was seven, I hid in the slow seeds of the hallway and conjured you,

halfway in my book of demons, a Ouija board, another alphabet, another number, my future in

seven years.

The lampshade melted, became candlewax, red for power, then black for protection,

and when I found you in the in-between, we couldn’t speak,

so I crushed sage smoke petals in my fingers tips and touched them to my eyes, saw the nether side of skull and knees, writing letters on the veins of leaves you never read, yet wrapped carefully

in prayer paper.  You wrote

adulterous

woman.

Now, the only thing to teach me is how to betray my body.

Tell me how I can debase the Holy, when only I can burn us

clean away.

****

Monique Quintana is the Editor-in-Chief of the blogazine, Razorhouse and is a contributing Fashion & Beauty Editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Huizache, Bordersenses, and The Acentos Review, among others. She is a Pocha/Chicana feminist bruja writing and teaching english in California’s Central Valley.

Image found on Pinterest with link to the Etsy Shop.

Badass Reads

Highly recommended: Seeing Red by Lina Meruane. This was one of my favorite books of 2016. It’s a visceral and incredible read.
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A collection of wonderful words to read on the internet by Rios de la Luz.

Natural Endowments by Ananya Kumar-Banerjee over at Paper Darts.

Charming by Laura Passin featured in The Fem Lit Magazine.

Whispering Pine Roads by Jennifer Schifano in Winter Tangerine.

rhododendron by Jaisha Jansena in Luna Luna Magazine.

She’s Really Let Herself Go by Jen Violi over at Nailed Magazine.

Photographer of the Month: Alex Romero

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Colocasia’s Chest by Alex Romero

“This photo of this elephant ear leaf, really reminds me of a human anatomy of a chest when I turned this image into black and white. I feel like I can stare at this one for hours playing some forest sounds in the background. I like how it’s so dark at the bottom and the contrast it makes as you keep looking at it going up or vice versa.”

Rios: Does your photography have any cathartic elements for you?

Alex: Definitely. I feel a sense of healing when I take certain photos or when I look back on them. Especially the ones I take of plants/scenery. I try to stay connected to nature and Mother Earth through my photography.

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Untitled by Alex Romero

“This one is an all time favorite because of the sunset and shadows of this couple, but mostly because this is one of the first photos I took with a DSLR camera. My former high school history teacher and friend Julija took me out to take photos and was kind enough to let me take a few photos with her Nikon, she’s always been supportive of my photography, so this one is really special for me.”

Rios: Who or what inspires you to engage in photography?

Alex: There are many things that inspire me to do photography I don’t know where to start, but I’ll start with saying that simply life inspires me. When I do street photography I mostly try to capture people of color or things related to my culture. I think it’s important to preserve and document our people and our culture or no one else will do it. As a woman photographer of color I feel like it’s my responsibility to do so, but to also represent myself as a photographer in a male dominated industry.

Poetry inspires me as well. Sometimes, I write poetry related to life, personal issues and I feel like that mostly inspires the photos I take of nature/scenery. I feel like poetry and nature together are healing and both release a sense of relief. Music also influences the photography I do, depending on what I listen to it gets me in certain moods on what I feel like capturing on that day. But I would say that I mostly inspire myself, if it wasn’t for myself to keep going with photography and ignoring the people who put me down as I aspired to be a photographer, I don’t know what I would be doing right now.

*****

If you want to see more magical photography, follow Alex on IG: tinyavocado