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Meet SGV/Pasadena Photographer & Student: Diana Pinto

Today we’d like to introduce you to Diana Pinto.

Diana, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’ve always been inclined toward the arts and tried a lot of things as a kid from ceramics to drawing to poetry, but photography came into my life for the first time when I was 11. As with many of the artistic things I tried, it was at a summer camp. This was in the twilight of film’s dominant era so I got to get my hands wet for the first time in the darkroom making prints. I can’t say that there were fireworks and strings, but it was the first time I used photography for something beyond a disposable film camera on a school field trip and it must have sparked something in my mind because the next summer I signed up for a digital photography course at another summer camp. After that photography was always a part of my life. I found websites like Deviantart and started sharing my little photos, but more importantly I was exposed to the work of others and that pushed me to improve. Additionally, I dealt with depression in my high school years and photography was a sanctuary from that. Eventually, when I was 15, I left high school upon being admitted to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. ACCD is a great school but I was just too young and troubled to stick it out so that excursion ended pretty quickly. I had always shot predominantly self-portraits and have continued to do so even to now. The only things that have really changed over time are my mediums and my ambitions. I went from doing digital, Photoshop-heavy work to analog work on instant film and medium format toy cameras. I also prefer to shoot for passion and only take on client work selectively if I know I’ll enjoy it. Today I’m very active on several projects and continue to be my own teacher alongside my pursuit of a degree in Music Education and American Studies.

Has it been a smooth road?
The road has been pretty bumpy for me but I’ve mostly been responsible for the mental aspect of that. I’m a somewhat obsessive, hyper-focused person when it comes to my passions and have the bad habit of comparing myself to others. It’s gotten a lot better over the years, and while I would make myself miserable thinking about the work of other photographers in relation to mine I can at least say when I was younger that it pushed me to improve my abilities. Now I don’t have a problem marching to the beat of my own drum because I know myself better and how I want to represent that in my work. That’s something that can only come with time and experimentation. The insecure days come and go and I’m not alone in that, but it’s all about keeping things in perspective and shooting what I care about. Externally, my road has been bumpy because I’ve led a rather non-traditional life since I left high school, but now everything seems to be on track at last!

What is the most difficult part of what you do?
I feel the hardest part of shooting for other people, whether it’s personal work or client work, is trusting my vision over any fears I may have of their expectations. I tend to be drawn very much to older styles of photography and more introspective, subtle, even concealing types of posing, which contrasts strongly with the kinds of images we are inundated with on a daily basis which are high-definition and explicit in their glamor and presentation of the subject. Simply put, I like to suggest an inner life in photos of others but I worry that my subject might expect that I’m going to make them look like a Beyoncé poster, which is just not my style of work. I would hope people understand that sometimes an image is not about them overtly, which sounds odd. I try to reach for something else. Anyone who I’ve shot can tell you, for example, that I’m obsessed with profile shots, but who would make a picture of the direct side of their face their profile picture? Social media plays into this concern as well. I think we’re in an age where not only are people terrified of looking bad in a photograph online (according to their own criteria), but they also determine the quality of an image based on the level of response they receive. My photos of someone, being a bit quieter that what’s popular in images these days, might not get as many “likes” as a very glamorous selfie they’ve posted. It doesn’t make me question my work as much as I worry whether or not my subject does. I’d like them to trust in me, how I portray them, and the shots I choose. The hard part is not letting these factors affect me.

What are you striving for, what criteria or markers have you set as indicators of success?
Technically, I feel successful if I’m working on a new way of shooting or familiarizing myself with a new piece of equipment and my experiments work over and over again. In a dull way, success is the capacity for dependable repetition, which is a reality of photography and perhaps any art. This sounds unsavory but really is freeing because it allows me to have a “style.” When I feel I can get a desired result whenever I want, wherever I want, then I know a good image won’t have to be an accident. Every photographer aims to know their gear and not struggle with things like exposure and composition. I feel successful, then, when I make an image that turns out exactly how I wanted it to or better, by “happy accident” or otherwise.

Of course, I also feel successful when my subject also really likes an image I shot of them. Those moments where you share a sense of pride in your collaboration are wonderful. I’m guilty as well of feeling successful when I get a good response from my audience, especially if it’s the audience my subject shares the photos with. Inversely, I also feel successful when I make photos that I believe in and feel deep within me even when others don’t seem to understand them.

What are your plans for the future?
I always have plans for new projects cooking. Some can be worked on soon, others are more for the distant future. Concepts pop into my head all the time for creative work. I want to keep playing with documentary work as time goes on. I have a project called “Beautiful and Lost” where I photograph and interview other Italian-Americans with the intention of sharing the diversity of our community. I’m intrigued by how much it’s about my subjects and a greater concept than it is about the aesthetic of the actual picture. Of course, that still matters, but the words matter more. I hope to take that project throughout and beyond Southern California and make it a big, inclusive catalog of many people. It’s the project I have the biggest ambition for, as well as the lengthiest timeline. That’s a big change for me, stretching out a project over the course of many, indeterminable years. I normally shoot my projects very quickly, but I think the patience and maturity that come with spending time with an idea will be good for me. You have to believe very much in what you’re doing.

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @dvep
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