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Meet Photographer Lluvia Higuera

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lluvia Higuera.

Lluvia, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
While I was growing up, my father worked as a bartender at the iconic bar “The Proud Bird” near LAX and my mother cleaned homes throughout Los Angeles. Even though their jobs weren’t necessarily glamorous, they did glam it up in the evenings. They loved the nightlife and going out dancing. Their commitment to something greater than the daily grind was inspiring. Watching my parents get ready to go out, maybe even pose for a picture, are some of the fondest memories I have of them where they looked and felt good. They were young and beautiful in my eyes. This ritual of going out still feels a bit atypical for the working-class immigrant narrative. Their style and aesthetic of that time still informs my appreciation of the way people dress and present themselves when I photograph them today.

Watching the 5 o’clock news in the states during the 1980’s was a contrast to the stories I heard from my parents of their lives in Mexico and what I saw when I visited. This dichotomy has informed much of my work, which is to search for stories that, in my experience, are too often skewed, misrepresented or overlooked.

I have a distinct memory from when I was very young of accompanying my mother to a beautiful house where she was working. Inside a large room, facing a garden with floor to ceiling windows, I saw something I’d never seen. Long drafting tables full of fancy art markers, pencils and paper ready for use. This was the first time I remember wanting a life that would allow for me to have a room like that.

As I got older, I worked to get into visual arts programs; this effort later manifested into photography classes and attending Art Center College of Design for my BFA. This experience influenced my decision to teach art and to be a mentor to young people, including children of immigrants, like myself, who often don’t have access to working with professional artists they can relate to.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
I became a mother at a young age and although I never saw it as an obstacle, it did draw me away from dedicating myself as much as I “could have” to my photography. I enjoyed being a parent and immersing myself in that role at the time. Now that my daughter is grown, I have the time to dedicate to shooting again. She is also a photographer now, which brings another dimension and depth to our relationship. This makes what’s next and my upcoming projects even more exciting.

While my education at Art Center established the technical and aesthetic sensibilities that guided me professionally, I ultimately found that this training was lacking in exposing the diverse narratives that spoke to my experience and life story. Because of this, it took many years of going through the motions of taking pictures without truly feeling connected to what I was shooting to find a way to tell the stories I care about.  

Please tell us about your approach to photography.
My strength is making photos in series that develop over years. I am able to do this because the generosity of spirit of the communities and individuals that let me in. Currently, I am working on a series that speaks to many of my experiences up to this point. It is a series of portraits and interviews with artists that make work and/or teach in a way that shapes and/or forms community through their practice. They are part of what I like to think of as a brown/chicanx renaissance. These are the voices I yearned for in my own education, but which I found to be lacking. I hope this will be a document of those who I see as invested in fomenting dialogue inside and outside art circles. I see this series continuing for many years and including as many artists as possible. In 20-30 years, this project will be a record of this time and of the many voices shaping the way we think of the brown/chicanx artist and experience in LA. I like the challenge of a commercial job, but my heart is in a series like this – that I develop over a long period of time.

The current iteration of this project is on view until December 2018 in the Latino-Chicano Heritage Reading Room at Pasadena City College’s Shatford Library, for precisely the audience I intended. I attended this college and know that to see these thoughtful cultural producers acknowledged and sharing a common background would have made a tremendous impact on me as a young artist. Although I have long term goals for the series, it’s use value in the community starts now.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Everyone who has given me the opportunity to teach and engage with communities and students deserve endless credit. Teaching art and photography in museums and non-profits has shaped the way I see photography and how I want to contribute to the medium. I would like to thank all my students, from my very young students to teenagers, for sharing their stories and allowing me to learn from them as we make art or photos.

And in regards to shooting for clients, Luciano Martinez from UMA Studio remains a supportive friend and advocating collaborator. I have produced some of my best work with him, inspired by his discipline, creativity, and dedication. His belief in me has definitely kept me going when I was questioning if I should or could continue shooting.

My daughter has also played a meaningful role as well, as an honest and harsh critic which (funnily enough) I think she gets from me. I admire her boldness and appreciate her point of view that is informed by different points of reference and her experience as part of a younger generation of artists.

And to all the artists who have and continue to make work that raises my own consciousness.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
The portraits of artists:
Karla Diaz
Sandra de la Loza
John Valadez
Melissa Hidalgo
Mario Ybarra Jr.
Michael Alvarez

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