Artists You Need to Know: Gustavo Rodriguez – NYC Photographer

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I am a New York City-based photographer, originally from northern California. I’ve been photographing over twenty years, and professionally for the last 8 years.

Within the diaspora of photography, there are many niches and inspirations for photographers. I am heavily influenced by national geographic, and old family images that tell stories without words. As a photographer I have a license to be intrusive at times, to feel in invisible and to record more than create images.

For years I was limited to film photography since I was usually broke, or put my money toward traveling. If I could do it again, I would have switched over to digital a lot sooner, and I would have gone to school for photography. I left my comfortable life in my mid 30’s in California to pursue photography in New York. My school now is assisting professional commercial photographers. I get to see celebrities, product placement, and work with hairdressers, makeup artist, stylist, set designers, models, agents, photographers, computer techs all coming together to make people like Hugh Jackman look like a regular guy.

I shoot my own work for money as well as set up photo shoots that reflect my culture in a positive light. I want women to be beautiful without having to sexualize them. I want children to show their beauty, even if it means their not smiling or dressed up in their best. I want ordinary, real moments that one would find in photojournalism. At the tender age of 43, I find myself still discovering new things about photography and about my own limitations, shyness, and unfocused eye.

A cornerstone of my life’s work is to record Indigenous people of this continent and all their diaspora; to record the beauty of our Native life.

(1) pregnant sisters: I’ve known these girls since we were young kids, and now their grown-up with kids of their own. They’re Aztec Dancers and when they put on their regalia, feathers and face paint they transform into our ancestors. Here they are posing together in Oakland, CA 2010.

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(2) Lady with Sun Rays: Marcela is a wonderful single mother here in NYC. Our American society uses words like “Illegals” and “aliens” which are terms reserved for brown people without papers. There are millions of Asian, European and other people who are undocumented in the US but are relegated this term. Marcela had just sponsored a Native American Church service for herself and her family. We cooked some breakfast after the tipi ceremony and from the smoke and sunrise I was able to take a beautiful woman with a shining heart.

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(3) Charlie and Cuauhtemoc having Ice Cream: My wife and her best friend had boys around the same time, and as a result, they are best friends. Here they’re racing against melting ice-cream.

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(4) Felix the super dude: I hang with other like minded parents, and here we see a make your own superhero costume party.

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(5) Dancer in the Sun: One of my passions “Son Jarocho” which is a folk music from the gulf coast state of Veracruz, Mexico. It’s unique to all other states, where the mix of native Mexican, Spanish and African come together in community music. Julieta is a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University and an immigrant from Mexico.

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(6) Circle Up: Every 4 years people run the length of the continent; where one group comes from “Tierra del Fuego” Argentina and another from “Chickaloon”, Alaska and they meet up in Mexico or Central Mexico. They pick up people along the way, and they pray over land, water, animals and people. It is not a race. We run with staffs and carry prayers and thoughts. It’s a 6-month prayer dedication. Here we’re in the ancient ruins of “Paquime”, Chihuahua, Mexico just at sunrise, getting our thoughts and prayers together for the day.

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(7) Cansadita: was in Mexico City subway station. Watching an elderly lady rest her head while she has a moment.

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