Las Fotos Catalyst Awardees: Ketzally Alcala and Djeneba Aduayom
Every October Las Fotos Projects honors six artists in 3 categories: SELF-EXPRESSION: For those who are purposefully disrupting mainstream photography, ADVOCACY: For power in photojournalism or use of photography for use in community advocacy or social justice, and CATALYST: For those who are purposefully disrupting mainstream photography.
Today we celebrate two artists in the Catalyst category, one a student, Ketzally Alcala and one a professional, Djeneba Aduayom. The 5th Annual Foto Awards takes place tonight, October 21st 2023 and if you are in Los Angeles, we encourage you to come.
Interviews with the artists follow.
What in your background, your family’s history or the place you come from inspired you to pursue the work you do?
Ketzally: My heritage has always been greatly present in my day to day life. As I began to experiment with my art and find my own style, I quickly realized that all of my images were a reflection of myself, my family and my lineage. A lot if not all of my inspiration for every image carefully curated is all drawn from my heritage from the land itself to every single story I’ve been told. It’s all played a role in how I approach my art.
What can you tell us about the interaction with the subjects photographed in your portfolio? What was your connection to them? How did it unfold? Did you discover or learn anything that surprised you?
Ketzally: My portfolio is curated carefully, I try my best to include a range of different photographic niches. As for my subjects I like to include folks who I hold a close relationship with because I strongly believe that my photographs, whether they are candid or not, are very intimate moments and having a close relationship emphasizes this much more. They’re intimate to me because some if not all of my subjects and I hold cultural similarities.
Ketzally Alcala, a 17-year-old photographer based in East Los Angeles. Throughout her
photography journey, she has been able to experiment with different niches but specializes in
portrait, editorial and lifestyle. As seen in her work, Ketzally incorporates her indigenous roots
and beliefs into each image curated. She feels as if it is her mission to shed light into her
community and people.
Growing up in a predominantly brown community, she observed her surroundings and
found that there was a lack of brown voices being uplifted. Through her work she hopes to elicit
a sense of belonging and comfort. For a big period in her life she questioned where she belonged and where her place in the world was. She felt a sense of misplacement. Through images, she is able to create memories that allow her to retrace her identity when in moments of self-reflection.
When was the last time a photograph drove you to action? What was it?
Djeneba: The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Mahsa Amini, and so many others—tragic losses of life that should not have happened in this day and age… It sometimes feels like humanity is going backward.
What made you want to create self portraits, to turn your camera toward your own body?
Djeneba: The series of self portraits was a direct result of the pandemic. Just a year before that, I was telling a friend that I was never interested in self portraiture! When the pandemic hit, my whole innerself collapsed with anxiety. During any stressful period in my life, I’ve found creativity takes over and is what gets me out of the darkness. In this situation, the world stopped at once. The forced isolation meant that no contact with other humans was possible to create new photography projects. I needed a mental escape and decided to process my emotions through a series of personal self portraits with whatever I could find at home—using my wardrobe, packaging materials, paper, and other elements to create little vignettes inspired by my current mood and mental state. This turned out to be an act of therapy and helped to keep me searching for the light during a rather dark period.
You mixed media work, combining performance and photography articulates a coherent aesthetics and visual language. What can you share about the process and developing your visual approach?
Djeneba: I find it hard to explain my process because everything is emotional and comes from the gut with me. My process, like myself, has multiple layers. It usually starts with an emotion, sensation, or feeling; sometimes ideas appear as a visual sketch in my mind. My process tends to take me through an emotional journey that I then express abstractly in various forms—from photography to multimedia to performance, and so on. My photography is especially inspired by the stories of my subjects and I respond to their energy intuitively. My intent is always to elevate anyone in front of my camera and make them feel truly seen. When I work with others I see it as a collaborative process.
Djeneba Aduayom is a self-taught artist whose work is marked by a sense of movement, performance, and personal interrogation. Her aesthetic is as much influenced by her multidisciplinary training and extensive travels, as it is by her multicultural heritage.
Aduayom always seeks to capture layers of emotions contained within people, often with hints of abstraction and surrealism. The ability to speak multiple visual languages, both literally and metaphorically, fuels her inspiration and creative output. The imaginative worlds she builds invite her viewers inwards and beckons them to travel to a universe of their very own making.
Aduayom believes we are complex beings that are united by underlying commonalities. The human experience is more universal and uniting than individual and derisive. Dualities exist, juxtaposing against one another in striking and complementary ways. These observations are at the core of her creative expression.
Rotem Rozental, Ph.D, is the Executive Director of the Los Angeles Center of Photography. Between 2016-2022, she served as Chief Curator at American Jewish University, where she was also Assistant Dean of the Whizin Center for Continuing Education and Senior Director of Arts and Creative Programming. Her book, Pre-State Photographic Archives and the Zionist Movement was published I 2023 by Routledge. Rotem lectures at the Critical Studies Department of USC Roski School of Art and Design and teaches seminars about photo-theory at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research. She contributes regularly to magazines, journals and exhibition catalogues. Her writings about contemporary art and image-based media, as well as Jewish and Israeli art, were published in Artforum.com, Photographies, Jewish Currents, Tables and Forward, among other outlets.
Las Fotos Project’s mission is to elevate the voices of teenage girls and gender-expansive youth from communities of color through photography and mentoring, empowering them to channel their creativity for the benefit of themselves, their community, and future careers.
Las Fotos Project was launched to provide opportunities for those who are both systemically and socially silenced to make themselves heard and, in the process, advocate for social change and create their own pathways to successful, creative futures. Our program model further reinforces photography’s inherent ability to spark introspection, evoke deeper meaning, and serve as a catalyst for change by placing students at the heart of social justice efforts in their respective communities.
Las Fotos Project was founded in 2010 by Los Angeles-based photographer Eric V. Ibarra after seeing a need for teenage girls throughout Los Angeles to have a skill that could help build their confidence and self-esteem. In March of 2011, Las Fotos Project became a project of Community Partners, a 501(c)3 organization which accelerates ideas into action to advance the public good. Las Fotos Project has since worked with girls throughout Southern California, and has developed partnership with national and international nonprofit organizations and schools to expand the movement of inspiring teenage girls through photography and self-expression. Our current focus is on the Central, South, and East Los Angeles regions of Los Angeles.
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Las Fotos Catalyst Awardees: Ketzally Alcala and Djeneba AduayomOctober 21st, 2023
Las Fotos Self-Expression Awardees: Nilupa Yasmin and Alé RivasOctober 19th, 2023