Growing up, I saw very few people who looked like me. The Latino community in my hometown did not include a lot of Central Americans and we did not have any family close by. I am the only daughter of four children. I had almost no visual representation of other people like myself or in a community. I don’t think it pushed me to be a creative person, but I think that being a creative person who had very little, in a lot of ways, helped me find representation for myself. I drew, I painted, I sewed, I’ve done in it all.
I attended the New England School of Photography two years after I graduated high school. I worked a full-time and part-time job to save money for school. I was not exactly sure what I wanted to do, but I knew I had to keep creating.
I started my self-portrait project by accident, doing them in the little time I had between working and school. I did them as practice for my classes but also as reference photos for other pieces I wanted to make. The more I made, the more I started to add elements. I was making props, buying wigs, doing makeup/SFX, and a lot of retouching. I was putting so much work into these reference shots I figured they could stand on their own. I feel like every creative outlet I’ve explored has led me here.
My process has changed a little. I now draw out ideas before I shoot. Even for portraits of other people, which I now have more time to explore.
Representation in our community has come a long way, but there is still so much we can do. I am inspired by the colors, textures, and patterns of my culture. A strong first impression came from none other than Frida Kahlo herself, creating striking self-portraits that showed her pain, her disability, her purest form. Without exposure to works of hers and other artists of all forms, music, films, books, I would not have had the courage to trust my explorations. We need these works, these people. We need to support and raise to encourage others to shine their light. Representation in our community means a voice that only we can strengthen.
Learn more about Gabriella Alejandra Aragon on ELLO, IG or her website!