How did you start taking photos?
In my past life, I worked as a legal assistant during the day and went to school for business at night. Eventually, I felt my soul deteriorating and on a whim went to an open house for Miami International University for Art & Design. I was so inspired by the walkthrough I decided to transfer. I started taking photos there but it would be years until I started taking good photos.
What are your aesthetic references? How did they evolve over time?
I think the through-line throughout my aesthetic references has been imagery that is poetic and evocative.
What can we see of you in your photographs?
Vulnerability. And when that emotion isn’t present, humor, which is also probably a coping mechanism.
What do you want to convey in your photographs?
I don’t think I convey the same thing each time. I wish sometimes I was more specific and single-minded but my attention and interests are fickle. At the moment I’m likely conveying a sense of chaos and frustration as a reflection of the current state of affairs.
How do your projects develop, especially your personal projects?
Most of the time it stems from one image I want to create and snowballs from there. Sometimes I reach out to someone new to see if they’re willing to collaborate. Other times I work with someone I’ve shot before which I enjoy because we’ve developed a rapport.
What is your go-to camera/lens combination?
Canon 5D w/ a 24-70mm and Mamiya C330.
Who do you consider the best photographers of the 21st century? Which photographers influence you directly?
Oof this is a tough one. Photography has become so democratized which means there is an insane amount of talented photographers with platforms now. Currently, I’m gravitating towards Jack Davison, Camila Falquez, Micaiah Carter, Viviane Sassen, Hugo Comte. I try to keep track of the people I’m impacted by the most here.
How did you develop your artistic style?
I think it’s still evolving. Maybe it always will. One of the challenges I’ve had in my career is that I’m not as specific as other artists. The more general you are - the harder it is for clients to trust you. Once I stopped taking bad photos I was so ostensibly proud of literally any photo that was technically good that I didn’t care if it was stylistically good. Earlier this year, however, I had a portfolio review with Gem Fletcher and it was incredibly informative. I’ve become more intentional in how I execute my work. Now if any image doesn’t fit with the style guides I’ve created for myself then it just lives somewhere else on the internet and not in my portfolio which is meant to represent who I am as a photographer.
Why did you move to New York?
Definitely for the opportunities. When I lived in Miami it felt like the two main routes as a photographer were taking family portraits or extremely commercial work - at least that’s where a lot of my peers from school ended up. I’m sure there are opportunities within Miami but when you haven’t really developed your sea legs as a photographer it’s easy to kind of flounder.
How does Miami influence your work?
Color, for sure. When I first moved to New York I leaned too hard into the cold city vibe so if you scroll far enough back through my Instagram feed everything looks muted and brown. I’ve felt nostalgia for home in the past few years so the inherent vibrancy in Miami has started seeping back into my work.
What role does art have in your daily life?
It’s a guiding force.
What projects are you currently working on?
I’ve been producing a physical newsletter, Parsing, printed monthly or until I’m done. It began as an outlet for my unsolicited podcast and movie recommendations but has developed into a place where I can explore themes I’m interested in more thoughtfully.
I’m working on two projects that are kind of intertwined. Last year, after my mother passed away due to complications from her autoimmune disease, I began digitizing all of our family photos to create a family archive that is functional but also beautifully designed. I’m also slowly working on a book dedicated specifically to my mother. I didn’t take any portraits of my mother when she was alive but I photographed all of the things she left behind to create a makeshift portrait of who she was. It will be called “I Forbid You to Forget Me.”
Has this year radicalized you? Solidified your beliefs?
The past four years, really, but definitely this past year. Sadly, I was 100% one of those people who were complacent and uninterested in politics during Obama’s presidency so I had to develop not only an understanding of politics but also my own beliefs when 45 took the office. My family is incredibly liberal (my dad used to be a communist and my mom was a lifelong Puerto Rican independentista) so that’s always been my foundation of how I should operate in this world. This year has given me a crash course on the history of this country, the system it was built upon, and for who.
Interview with Daniela Spector