I enjoyed interviewing Arlette Landestoy. And I believe that Arlette is the first Dominican Latina photographer I have interviewed.
It’s not so surprising. Why — because Latina photographers are a very small minority within the photography general market.
I appreciate Landestoy’s commitment to document her vanishing, Dominican, neighborhood. Many of us take for granted our — past and history. We leave it to others to remember, document and record. Because we are too busy worrying about the future and day dreaming in the present.
But our history is critically important. More important than our present and future, combined. Why — because our history defines us. And it’s that definition that empowers us.
LBTL: Tell me what inspired you to create the photomentary — “Weekend Visitors to Inwood Hill Park (The Dominican People?”
AL: My childhood neighborhood was changing and I wanted to document the place I grew up in before it disappeared. I did not realize how much I appreciated my park until it started to change.
When the corner bodega on the street I grew up on went out of business because the rent had become too high and a hip corner café took its place, it triggered me to capture what was left of the Inwood that I knew.
LBTL: How has being a young Dominican woman — raised in Inwood — influenced your photography?
AL: I love the warm and friendly nature of my people and that has influenced me immensely. That is one of the dimensions I wanted to show in my work. There are far too many negative stereotypes in the media when it comes to people of color.
It’s frustrating when a person of color does something wrong and it sticks to all of us. I feel the need to break these stereotypes and show the positive though my photography.
LBTL: Why did you pick-up a camera? And what was the why in becoming a photographer?
AL: At age 14, it was at the YMCA that I picked-up my first 35 mm fully manual camera and fell in love with the traditional black and white film and the process of printing in a darkroom. My favorite part of traditional black and white photography is when the exposed silver gelatin paper hits the developer bath and the images slowly appear.
It feels like I’m opening up a gift every time and it never gets old. Feelings like that — you don’t come across everyday and I wanted to hold on to that so I became the photographer that I am today.
LBTL: As a Latina photographer do you admire other Latina photographers? Who in particular has most inspired your photography?
AL: I see myself as a photographer and I have to say once I see an image that I love, I then look for the person behind the photo and why they did it. The person that has most inspired me is my fiancé, which happens to be a photographer as well.
Seeing his work made me want to get better at my craft and helped me take my work to the next level technically.
LBTL: If you could teach future Latina photographers 3 things. What would those things be?
- Know thyself. Don’t let labels dictate who you are or let them limit you to what you can become.
- Learn and try to master the technique of your craft because it will enhance your work tremendously. The artist comes from within but the technique needs to be learnt.
- Be brave and patient in the pursuit of your passions. The profession of photography is already very hard to get into as it doesn’t always entail financial security. On top of that, being a woman of color in a mainly white-male dominated profession will bring its own challenges.
Call To Action
Take the time to remember your past and pay homage to your history. Record those moments in text, images or audio. And pass them along to the younger of your generation. So they never forget.