We had the good fortune of connecting with Santiago Vanegas and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Santiago, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
In fine art photography, there are many who stick with a very specific subject matter and/or style for their projects. Many do this simply because that subject/style is what consistently inspires them most. That’s great. However, others stick to that subject/style because they want to have a consistent brand. I’ve never adhered to this and always create my own path, no matter how unexpected it may seem. Whatever inspires me is where I will go. The only consistency I strive for is to always be true to my vision, no matter where it goes.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My journey as a photographer is constantly evolving. Us photographers are frequently asked, “what kind of photography do you do?”. It’s a loaded question. Over the years my response has evolved. It’s gone from editorial… fashion… surrealism… landscape… street photography… video… etc.. Those short answers may have helped give the person asking an idea of what I do. On the flip side, it puts me in a pigeonhole. “If you’re a surrealist photographer, why are you now doing landscape?”. In my experience, almost all art is ultimately asking the question “who am I?”. I don’t want to mislead by attaching myself to a particular genre or type of photography, just for the sake of branding. So, what kind of photography do I do? Autobiographical. Meaning, I explore whatever motivates or inspires me. I am human. My essence remains, but I evolve over time. That evolution is a product of my day to day life experience, hence the “autobiographical”. It’s an unusual reply to “what kind of photography do you do?”. But more importantly, I am giving myself permission to always be true to myself.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’d suggest going to the top of Stone Mountain. Amongst all the suburban sprawl, that big rock is a mighty contradiction. It’s like another planet. Ponce City Market has been a nice addition to Atlanta. Great shopping, food, and people watching. Rent a bike and hit the Atlanta Beltline. Little 5 Points is fun. It’s like a mini version of San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury area. If the timing is right, check out a musical performance at The Tabernacle, the Shakey Knees Music Festival, or Midtown Music Festival. If you have kids, go to the Downwind Restaurant at Peachtree Dekalb Airport. It’s a small family owned diner right in the middle of the airport. It has a terrace with a front row seat to all the airport activity… and it has a playground right there, with that same view.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I am fortunate to have benefitted from many who have supported and guided me throughout my career. They’ve all been instrumental one way or another. Two people stand above all though. My mother and my wife. My mother, Liliana Durán, is a painter. Since I was a small child, I’ve witnessed her artistic evolution. She has always been true to what inspires her, and never afraid to produce unexpected projects and ruffle feathers in the art world. Her restless curiosity has taken her art through many different phases. She has taught me to always be curious and never be afraid to go places with my work that might seem too far out. My wife Tracey, a fellow photographer, has always believed in my work. Throughout all my highs and lows, she’s been 100% supportive, but more importantly HONEST. Being a photographer, she understands the process making her my best critic. She not only inspires me, but also keeps me on my toes. Without her, I’d be shooting passport photos by now.
all images by Santiago Vanegas