Part I of the series “F-Stop: América Latina” in which Mexican photographer and journalist Sandra Hernández interviews fellow female street photographers working in Latin America. In this installment we meet Sandra Garip of the Dominican Republic.
When I discovered the work of my namesake Sandra I was surprised by the versatility of her work. Her photographic record ranges from everyday situations composed with an impeccable order and geometry, to urban portraits that demonstrate an intimacy between her lens and the subject, something very difficult to achieve. Nothing escapes her eye, and her sensitivity is evident in each of her captures.
I am delighted with this opportunity to get to know her better, and to share her wonderful way of photographing her world.
Please tell us about yourself and your background with photography.
I am from Dominican Republic and I’m an architect dedicated to the real estate business. Twelve years ago I found photography, a passion to which I wish I could dedicate myself for the rest of my life. I consider myself a self-taught photographer. First I was delighted with the beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the Caribbean Sea: I waited every day for these scenes dyed in different shapes and colors. At that time I only had a small point and shoot camera with which I made my first exhibition of that collection.
Then, through social media, I joined a photography group and discovered conservation photography. The winged species in action have been the best school for me, from them I learned how to freeze or pan an image in different lighting conditions.
How did you get to street photography? Why do you practice it? What does it mean to you?
In 2014, I started embarking on photographic trips to other countries and then walking around, I fell in love with street photography. The street is like a dream to me, perhaps because of my profession. I really enjoy its architecture mixed with its people. Its magic envelops me, and I’m trying to capture the essence of an urban environment, until the last rays of daylight have already disappeared. Sometimes I define my street work as a mix with documentary, because my images are full of street celebrations, rituals, festivals and dance.
It strikes me that, like me, you have a training in architecture. How does this affect your photographic practice? What connection do these two disciplines have for you: how do they feed each other, how do they complement each other?
Of course, all of the fine arts are connected and always coincide in some principles. Both are a means of communication, a need for human beings to express themselves and communicate through shapes and colors in different languages. Architecture is the art of creating usable and lasting spaces — photography is the art of creating lasting images — both based on beauty, balance and firmness. Every work of art has a particular way of expressing an idea or concept that wants to be shared in any form of artistic expression, be it architecture, music, painting, poetry, photography, etc.
I have personally found few female street photographers in Latin America. I don’t know if it’s due to low visibility in general for this genre in our region, or if there are other reasons. How do you see the panorama of female street photography in Latin America?
You’re right. I think that in our countries, street photography becomes more dangerous every day. The cameras, mainly the largest, draw a lot of attention to burglars and we must be very careful, this greatly reduces the number of photographers in this branch, mainly women. Also, people on the streets do not like to be photographed by strangers, since they fear they will most likely be published on the internet. There are countries more vulnerable than others. I cannot fail to mention Cuba, my favorite photographic destination, where I have never felt fear and people are very agreeable to being portrayed. There I have made my best photographs, both outside and inside the streets.
Tell us about your work processes: when you go out on the street, do you already have a plan in mind or a particular theme, or do you prefer to be carried away by intuition?
The surprise factor is part of the magic, the street is constantly changing, its people, its lights and its shadows. I enjoy going out with the camera to see what to find. In order not to miss anything, we help ourselves with a 35 mm lens, capable of capturing either an individual or a street set.
There are those who approach literature, visual arts or the work of other photographers for inspiration. There are those who find it in the stories that happen in their close context. In your case, where do you look for inspiration?
For one, by talking walks. Walking through the neighborhood… through the city…. I find details that I have never seen when I am in a car. Also in the countryside, or alongside the beach, always observing where to shoot.
And also, in the works of other artists, not necessarily photographers, in books and on the internet.
Finally, is there a particular topic that is your favorite or that you would like to address soon?
At the present moment, I am working on an urban portrait collection. All of the images have been made on the streets, in short moments and all with natural light. It is impossible for me to ignore this specific human subgenre, the street portrait. I greatly enjoy getting close enough to portray these strange and unknown characters that appear in my walks, most of them living on the streets. The encounters are short and all surprising. First I look for complicity with them, and once the connection is made, then with the camera I aim to take a look inside their soul.