Duration: I started working full-time as a staff photographer for the Yakima Herald-Republic in 2015. I left in 2017 to pursue freelancing in the editorial and commercial world.
Location: Jackson, Wyoming.
Education: BA in Spanish from Seattle University, Seattle, Washington.
Career path: My career path has been highly influenced by the photography community in Seattle. The Seattle Times photojournalist Erika Schultz and commercial photographer Michael Hansen were some of my most important mentors when I first started. Since I did not study photography in college, I learned much of my photography skills from internships and mentors. I studied Spanish, thinking I’d become a photojournalist in Latin America, but after interning for the Associated Press in Mexico City, Mexico—which was a wonderful learning experience—I realized I was more passionate about travel and adventure photography. My creative vision has expanded, and most of my assignments are now for commercial clients. I am grateful for my photojournalism background because it gave me an invaluable skill set, one that enables me to work on the fly and develop photography projects with full narrative arcs.
Cultural influences: I grew up in a small, outdoorsy town. From a young age, I learned to appreciate the outdoors, and I enjoy sharing that love through photography. Because of my background in photojournalism, I believe in finding candid shots rather than creating them. I am always trying to find organic moments that show the true spirit of what I am photographing. Although I was born in the states, my father is Colombian, and I am super proud of my Latin heritage. As a female with Latin roots, I am passionate about highlighting women and minorities in my work.
Favorite project: PNW Sheepherders, a documentary project about Peruvian migrant sheepherders who come to the states to work for 2.5 years straight. They work for low wages for 365 days a year and 24 hours a day, alone in the mountains of Washington. I felt this story was crucial to tell because it shared the importance of migrant workers and the struggles they go through to produce wool in the United States.
I worked on the project for more than two years. It was mostly self-funded, but a small grant from the Society of Professional Journalists helped me finish the last portion. Some wonderful mentors from National Geographic helped me along the way. The project gave me a chance to grow as a storyteller. I gained a better understanding of how to slow down while shooting long-term projects. I realized that with this type of work, you’re not going to get every shot you need right away, and that being patient and spacing out shooting days is very helpful.
After working as a photojournalist for years, it was helpful to shoot this project solely for myself. Without limitations, my creative vision evolved into my unique style of shooting. To shoot something simply because you want to shoot it and not because anyone told you to can be very freeing.
Work environment: Lately, it’s been in the mountains, which is awesome! This is my favorite place to photograph. I rarely shoot in a studio setting. With my commercial work, I am usually working anywhere from a hiking trail to the top of a mountain. When I am shooting editorial work, the environment is more intimate; I am usually photographing at someone’s house or observing my subject’s daily life. I feel lucky to be in these spaces because I get to experience the world and learn from it in new ways.
Approach: Today, I always bring a journalistic approach to shoots. My goal is to get viewers to connect not only through beauty within the imagery, but also through relatable moments and human emotion. I go beyond the obvious gorgeous shot and search for more. I’ve been trained to develop narrative arcs within a set of images, and I strive to create a full story in all my shoots. No matter if I am shooting an editorial or commercial assignment, I like to keep the vibes relaxed and genuine. I try my hardest to get to know the people I am photographing and get on their level. I never want anyone I am working with to think I am better than them in any way.
Aspirations: In five to ten years, I’d like to be shooting more advertising campaigns and catalog work for outdoor brands. I’d like my work to include more women and minorities in the outdoor world. I’ve always been interested in shooting fashion photography someday as well. Wherever I am, I’d like to continue shooting personal projects, as they fuel the fire in my photography.
Philosophy: Shoot the work you care about, and trust it will take you where you are supposed to go.
Fun fact: Once, while photographing a cattle drive for an assignment, I was charged at by an angry pregnant cow. She knocked me to the ground while I was carrying two 1DX cameras, but I managed to escape safely. I was pretty freaked out afterwards, but the cowboys on the cattle drive got a good laugh out of it. I’m a total wannabe cowgirl, and I’d love to have a ranch of my own someday.