The Foto Awards presented by Las Fotos Project: Veronica Monjaras in conversation with Cat Jimenez
This week in honor of Latinx Heritage Month, we are celebrating a wonderful organization in Los Angeles, the Las Fotos Project, and The Foto Awards event taking place tonight, October 23, 2021. Today we celebrate Editorial Awardee Veronica Monjaras. The Editorial Award is given for inspirational entrepreneurs or innovators.
Las Fotos Project’s mission is to elevate the voices of teenage girls through photography and mentoring, empowering them to channel their creativity for the benefit of themselves, their community and future careers. The organization was founded in 2010 to introduce teenage girls to the transformational power of photography and advance positive change in the surrounding community.
Veronica Monjaras is a 19 year-old photographer based in the Los Angeles area. She was born in Alhambra, on the outskirts of the San Gabriel Valley. Her love of photography began as a child, when her mother was gifted a DSLR for Christmas. As Veronica got older, she found that photography was an outlet and therapy for her mind. With each click of the shutter she attempts to capture the feelings of people through her lens – movement and moments. Veronica is resourceful, dynamic and makes use of her surroundings to the best of her ability. In the future, she hopes to work with people from all walks of life and to help tell their story. Apart from photography, Veronica also enjoys reading, watercolor, sketching, and studying languages. Follow Veronica on Instagram: @veronicamonjaras.photo
What brought you to photography?
When I was a kid, my mom was gifted a small camera from my older brother for Christmas. I was mesmerized with the camera, and tried to get my hands on it as much as I could. I would take pictures of my baby siblings doing almost everything — climbing the stairs, fighting over a toy, getting ready to trick-or-treat on Halloween, I wanted them to have a record of themselves that could look back on, the same way I was able to, through the countless photo albums, and loose prints, in the bags, that I hold so fondly and dearly in memories (and on the top shelf of the hall closet).
How did you get involved with Las Fotos?
At the start of my junior year, my photography teacher had announced to our class that Las Fotos project was accepting applications. I had never heard of such a program before, but it piqued my interest. Regrettably, I didn’t apply for that semester, but the next semester, I was ready, I turned in my interest form and hoped for the best. Months later, they are accepting applications once more, only this time, I turn one in and the rest is “history”.
What does being recognized by Las Fotos and The Foto Awards mean to you?
Las Fotos has contributed to an abundance of growth for me — both as a photographer, and as a person, and so to be recognized by the very same people for that growth means a lot to me. To be receiving the editorial award for The Foto Awards tells me that they see that growth as well. This award tells me that I can and should keep going because even when I take images I’m embarrassed of, I am capable of capturing something beautiful.
Tell us about your growing up and the landscape of your childhood.
Even as a child, I had the heart of a wanderer, I went from my childhood best friend’s house, my cousin’s house, my neighbor’s, the bike rides to the library, the old castle on the hill. I liked to explore and books helped me explore and learn about the world in ways I couldn’t even imagine.
As a photographer, what are you looking for/at when you look through the lens?
When I look through the lens, I hope to capture the emotions I feel as I raise the camera to my eye. I try to keep the mood light-hearted and play the model’s preferred music genre/artist and I look for the moment when I see them drop their guard. The tension in their shoulders dropping, the muscles on their face relaxing as they begin to move in the way I have directed. I look for the moment in which the background, their body and face align.
Do you have a mentor you would like to acknowledge?
No, at least not one in particular, because all the mentors I have worked with have left such lasting impressions on me and I love them all dearly. So Rebecca, Marlena, Joyee, Salima, Michelle, and others, thank you so much!
Describe your perfect day…
To me, a perfect day would involve a good book that gets my heart and emotions all in a turmoil, and Echo laying by my side asking for head scratches, Echo is one of my rabbits. We would be at the park watching the sun set, and I have some delicious food or snacks for us to enjoy.
What are your future aspirations in relationship to photography?
In the future, I aspire to travel, and learn to capture different people and their stories through my work, just like the photographers in Women Photographers at National Geographic Newman, Cathy, (2002). This book speaks to me because I feel like it’s a history long forgotten, the stories of these women breaking into the photographic field, from as early as the 19th Century; traveling for work and going where no man has ever been allowed! For instance, Jodi Cobb’s work with Saudi women and Karen Kasmauski’s work with Geisha, the level of intimacy and trust required just wasn’t open to men, and to this day, some places and practices still aren’t. To have my work be viewed as refined, and beautiful, yet also capable of so much depth. I want my work to be felt, not just seen.
Cat Jimenez has worked at the intersection of photography, technology and culture as producer, programmer and curator for over 15 years.
She currently serves as the Head of Production for the Brand Team at Lucid Motors and prior to her current post, she held the role of Executive Producer for Imprint Projects, a creative agency. She was responsible for producing short-form content, social content, printed matter and experiential activations for brands such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Levi’s, Sonos, Everlane, method, Dropbox, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Allbirds and many more.
Prior to her post at Imprint Projects, she led the Los Angeles-based, non-profit organization, the Lucie Foundation, as the Executive Director. The Lucie Foundation’s mission is three tiered: to honor master photographers; to discover and cultivate emerging talent; and to promote the appreciation of photography through various programs, which Jimenez has spearheaded during her tenure. The Lucie Foundation is best known for hosting the annual Lucie Awards and the International Photography Awards, held simultaneously at Carnegie Hall every October. “If the Lucies are the Oscars of the photography world, then Cat Jimenez is its Cecil B. DeMille. Not only does she have an eye for talent, she celebrates it, too. For her hard work and dedication to the craft, she deserves a statue of her own,” says Glenda Bailey, Editor-in-Chief of Harper’s Bazaar. During her time, she also founded the Photography Festival, Month of Photography Los Angeles. An annual, month-long celebration of the still image which is currently undergoing a post-pandemic reboot and will re-launch in 2022.
Since 2015 to date, she has acted as the Photography Director for the National YoungArts Foundation Young Arts Week in Los Angeles In 2022, she will be serving as the Photography Director for the National Young Arts Week, based in Miami, Florida. The organization’s mission is to identify the most accomplished young artists in the visual, literary and performing arts, and provides them with creative and professional development opportunities throughout their careers. Notable alumnae include poet laureate Amanda Gorman, Viola Davis, Doug Aitken, Jason Moran, Billy Porter, Kerry Washington and hundreds more.
In 2021, she acted as the Head Judge on Hulu’s Exposure, a reality show searching for the rising stars of photography. Follow Cat on Instagram: @catjimenez
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