I want to live in America
The following graduate report is the review of my artistic developments after three years of rigorous training in photography at The University of Texas at Austin. After a long period of not producing artwork, my entrance into graduate school at UT was the first step for beginning to take pictures and rethinking my objectives as an artist. I have to confess that when I was applying to graduate school I did not consider art as the profession I wanted develop in my life; instead, I applied to schools that had an strong focus in commercial photography.
As a Colombian, most of my concerns were more about how to make a living. In my hometown, the only way to be independent is through a professional job, rather than what in the United States is called blue-collar work, including waiting tables or services in general. When I realized again that I was immersed in an endless dialogue about art, I had to reconsider my objectives to assume the idea of how I was going to combine my creative skills with a strong research in contemporary thinking about the visual image.
My three biggest challenges when entering graduate school were finding a subject to begin to photograph again, exploring the idea of being part of a new community considering my arrival from a different country, and developing strong technical photographic skills.
My relation to the United States in my artwork was the first thematic. Since I was a child and until my undergraduate research project, I always came to the United States as a spectator that experienced the country from the outside. My longest encounter as an observer was in 2004 when I came to do research on illegal immigrants for my undergraduate theses research. At that time, my approach to photography and art was mostly documentary where the visual result was based on video interviews and formal portraits of a minority I was interested in. I tried to find an explanation for the immense flow of people across the border between the United States and México.
Once I was already here, after three years, living in a different city, I realized that I still was interested in photographing people and decided to focus on American stereotypes. Probably one of the issues I began to face was that I discovered that I was not enjoying carrying my camera all the time and thinking as a photographer that documented daily life. My interest was more in using the camera for specific projects rather than documenting my surroundings. At that point, I realized that staging was going to be the main modus operandi for creating artwork. From there I began to think in different projects that were developed throughout the three years of the program.