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Daily Inspiration: Meet Cara Gonzales

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cara Gonzales.

Cara, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I grew up in a military family where my dad served over 20 years in the army and led us to constantly move. I was born in Chesapeake, Virginia and at six years old I moved to Hawaii for five years. Within that time, we had also lived in a hotel in Oregon for about 3-5 months where I had to move schools but eventually we ended up back to Hawaii. As my dad retired, we moved to New Jersey for two years and then to Long Beach, CA where I’ve been since I was a sophomore in high school. I attended Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach and got my BA in television, film, and media studies from Cal State Los Angeles. With all of this moving, it led me to a multitude of friends and the ability to adapt to different environments. My family loved to travel in and out of the U.S and it’s made me learn so much about different cultures, people, and environments. With this broad perspective it helped widen my lens to see art in a new way, and I used any little camera I could to capture it.

Being a photographer, I think of myself as creative overall, especially with visual arts. I received my first digital camera in 3rd grade and ever since then I had always said I wanted to be a photographer which is funny because I didn’t take it seriously until I was much older. My mom is an artist while my dad was more of a logistical type. I remember getting inspiration from a family member who worked in media and photography for the NBA. I had always been fascinated when he would show me things like commercials or cameras from his job. I used to feel like I was never good at anything else through high school or college but the arts. I would try new sports and new hobbies until I found an outlet in dance. I had danced for seven years and occasionally will still take a class once in a while. I enjoyed hip-hop, ballet and jazz the most. This lead to my photography for T. Milly dance studios in Hollywood which was a combination of my love for both!

I feel like I did not take photography seriously until the end of high school and into college. Even then, in the beginning of college, I was still intimidated–thinking that if I didn’t have the right equipment or the best of the best, I shouldn’t be so confident about my work. When it came to learning the cameras itself, since i’m more of a visual learner I would just test random buttons and settings and see what happened. Learning to edit was much harder, it was a trial and error of testing of what I liked and didn’t like. So fast forward to maybe my sophomore and junior year of college, I had met people from The Lunch Table Talks and I would shoot so many of their photos and events. Nico helped me create and network with amazing local artists and would bring me in for photos at iHeart Radio. He and my good friend Ange had been great influences on me as I was in college and they had given me such amazing advice since I was the youngest of the group. I then started photographing artists and my friends who DJ at clubs. I was never got into landscape photography or anything like that because I think I enjoy portraits the most. My junior and senior years of college I fell in love with taking graduation photoshoots which I still do every spring semester. I enjoy those because people are so excited and it’s a good time to celebrate.

In the summer of 2020, I had become very close friends with another full-time film photographer, Adrian (@smallicedcoffee). We had done photoshoots of myself here and there and started to hang out, because of him I was inspired to try film photography and get my own camera. That summer, I was uninspired and had been on a break from photos until I had gotten my first and only film camera yet–a yashica fx2. Since then, I continue to experiment with different film stocks and I have fallen in love with photography all over again. I have specifically fallen in love with black and white film for portraits. I’m very happy and excited to be where I am compared to years ago especially concerning my art and being a creative artist overall.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I think being on the move constantly gave me a lot of social anxiety and generally made me sad. I struggled with being shy and non-confrontational so meeting and shooting with strangers was something I had to grow into. I think networking was a struggle because I wasn’t owning my power as a creative artist. Once I discovered who I truly was as a photographer and artist, so many things aligned for me and I felt like I could really achieve my dreams. My mental illness struggles were a factor in having to take breaks or overworking myself. I would book every second of the week with something and I would use it as a distraction from my really issues. I don’t think any artist has a smooth road of course but I am learning and adapting through my art.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I would say I am a portrait photographer both digital and on film. I feel that I like to collaborate with each model and see things differently than those who are not photographers or filmmakers. I feel like there is no right or wrong in photography. I don’t see it as an equation or science like some do. I don’t think about composition and honestly do what I feel in that moment. I think I’m very willing to try new techniques and things because if I don’t try how would I know if I ever liked it, even if I didn’t think it was a good idea in the beginning. I think that there is only one of me in this entire world and I like to remind everyone of that because you can have the same occupation as an artist or photographer, but no one has the same pictures as someone else. I think I’m different because I don’t have one look, one edit, or one thing I specialize in, as does anyone. I have done sports photography, events, portraits, family, etc. My editing changes with every shoot and mood I’m in. I feel that they look extremely different and I will take pictures to try to showcase that. I think that my life experiences like being a dancer growing up and studying film for my bachelor’s influence my photos and how I know what I like to create.

Is there anyone you’d like to thank or give credit to?
My boyfriend, Jesse – my number one supporter in my art and in everything I choose to do in my life.

My mom – a painter, an artist someone I can talk too, of course a huge support.

My dad, who supports me in my arts and encourages me to work hard.

Angie – a very good friend who is also a creative in Long Beach and has given me such good advice in life overall.

Quinn Trowbridge – being an amazing friend and assisting me in photos when she can, also iconic because she takes all my photos of myself on Instagram.

Nico (@TheLunchTable) – a very good friend who helped me and gave me opportunities to for photos where I learned to grow.

Adrian (@smallicedcoffee) – an amazing friend I met on Twitter as well as film photographer who I’ve gotten close to and has taught me so much with film photography.

Maria (Bea) – who is family and one of my number one supporter in my art and being myself.

Veronica Pollack – who has been there for me since the day we met in college and has been very helpful in my art and has been an amazing friend.

My close friends (who know who they are) have all hyped me up from the beginning and have given me opportunities and jobs that involve photos which have always been so nice that they think of me for those things.  I appreciate anyone who has ever wanted to book me for my work and support what I love to do.

Pricing:

  • Specialize in portraits starting at 300 for film and digital

Contact Info:

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