We’re happy to present the work of L.A. based photogapher Cinthya Guillen. As a father of two, her intimate depiction of fatherhood really resonated with me. Please take a moment to read her fantastic interview and then head over to www.cinthyaguillen.com to view more of her work.
First off, an introduction. Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Cinthya Guillen. I was born in Nayarit, Mexico – raised in Southern California from age 6. I am a mother of 2 currently living in Los Angeles.
What is it that draws you to photography as a medium and how does using film impact your work?
I started shooting in high school, but I didn’t really appreciate the importance of images until I studied Anthropology in college. I was first drawn to photography as a medium for documenting the way I saw things, but its importance was brought into a sharper focus for me as I spent time documenting religious cultures. I realized that capturing people through images is key in the creation of narratives and that by picking up a camera I could have a say in what narratives are told.
Favorite film stock? Camera? What are some of your favorite tools to create with?
My favorite 35mm film stock of all time is Fujifilm’s Neopan 400 which sadly no longer exists (well, it does on eBay but at $45 a roll). More unfortunate is that my favorite Polaroid film stock is Fujifilm’s FP3000b, which is also no longer in production. My favorite and most used camera is the Nikon F3 but my Polaroid Land 250 is the camera I have the most fun with.
Does living in Los Angeles factor into your photographic vision? If so, in what ways has the city influenced your work?
Growing up as an immigrant in Orange County and then moving to Los Angeles for college really shaped my vision of diversity. I realized, through my experiences with the city and the people who live here, that many stories go untold. It then became very important for me to make images of things I want to see in the world — images that reveal quiet moments within this complicated city. Los Angeles also made it possible for me to think deeper about the notions of representation.
Photography in Los Angeles seems to be experiencing a bit of a renaissance at the moment. Do you have thoughts about how the scene has evolved over the past few years?
It definitely is experiencing a resurgence and I am thankful that I have been fortunate enough to meet a lot of people as a result of the growth of the LA film photography community. I only hope that as more people pick up the desire to shoot that they appreciate what I do about film, that it’s more than novelty. It’s an art form that makes you stop to think about what you are looking at and to be intentional about what you are capturing.
How does your identity influence the images you create?
My identity plays a large part in the images I create. Being part of a marginalized population makes me consider how I make images, which ultimately always come at the expense of a subject. Good portraits are more often than not exploitative and I try to keep that in mind. This perspective has been shaped by my understanding of how I am viewed in society as a woman of color.
The photographs that you shared with us revolve around the subject of fatherhood. Can you tell us about the project?
This project is something that I have just recently started as a result of the evolution of my relationship. I was a single mother for a couple of years, so to see a man with no biological ties to my children develop a meaningful connection to them has been a very special experience. I realized that there aren’t enough stories depicting fatherhood, let alone stories showing men of color in that role. I also realized that I was witnessing the gradual growth of a person who was accepting a new reality as a daily norm while I myself was recalibrating what it meant to be a mother in this new dynamic. The goal is to learn by getting outside myself as I document these moments, but also to bring forward conversations about the meaning of family. Carrie Mae Weems is a huge inspiration so I hope to make work that’s self-reflective while also appealing across race and culture to fundamental human experiences.
What other projects are you working on at the moment?
I have an on-going project where I photograph homes in/around downtown Los Angeles and juxtapose them to homes I photograph in Tijuana, Mexico. The idea being that side-by-side, distinctions of place and space are harder to make.
Anything else you would like to share with our audience?
Towards the end of last year I co-founded a collective for women of color who shoot film as a means to create a community of mutual support but also in order to create a platform for showcasing our work. It was founded as Black Dove Film Club, but has now turned into La Femme Film Society. We lost a co-founder since then, but the goal remains the same: to bring our work into the world, to be supportive of one another in the promotion of our work, and to unite in a commitment to address social justice issues. We are a group of diverse and multifaceted women adding to the narrative of what it means to be women of color in our current society. Our first event as LFFS will be the LA Zinefest where we’ll have a table with zines and prints from all members.