Chatting with Leticia Valdez
Over the past year, I've become a great admirer of fashion photographer Leticia Valdez via her Instagram account. With a quiet moodiness, Valdez explores themes of solitude, religion, and art history. Recently, she was kind enough to speak with me about her background, work and influences.
Tell me a bit about who you are and what you do.
I am a freelance fashion and portraiture photographer based in New York City. I work with digital
and analog photography and 19th century alternative printing processes.
Where did you study?
I hold a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from the Fashion Institute of Technology and a
Master of Arts in Costume Studies from the Steindhardt School at New York University.
Tell me about your photography. How did it begin?
I was lucky enough to grow up with a mother who relentlessly recorded and photographed the family; while I cringed whenever she picked up her camera and aimed it in my direction, I am grateful for her enthusiasm and the access to and knowledge of how to use an SLR camera at an early age. In high school in the late 1980’s, I developed a penchant for fashion photography and
would often borrow my mother’s SLR camera to photograph friends in what I thought at the time were the most fashionable styles!!! Eventually life got busy, I developed other interests and walked away from photography, using a point and shoot camera to take the occasional snapshot,
until 2009 when I purchased my first DSLR. Getting back into photography was natural, and as I had in the past, I gravitated to what I enjoyed best which is fashion and portraiture. By the time I began photographing again in 2009, the digital process had made it more affordable to take photographs an additional incentive for me. I eventually enrolled in the photography program at the Fashion Institute of Technology where I learned the history of photography, and the technical aspects of lighting and taking photos. This wasn't so fun at the time, but was however an invaluable education.
Tell me about your interest in fashion--who inspires you? Some of your work reminds me of various campaigns for Commes des Garcon and Alexander McQueen.
Fashion has always been an important part of my life; I have always been interested and aware of fashion trends and top designers, eventually learning the history of fashion.
As a teenager, I would eagerly wait for the upcoming issue of Vogue, Elle and Detail magazine to
arrive in the mail. I would then proceed to devour the issue, inspecting every single page, the
editorials, the photography and their compositions, the advertisements, you name it! Fashion was
definitely an indulgence--a form of escapism. And as result, fashion plays a significant role in my
photographs. I am inspired by soft and voluminous, structured garments, and adore neutral colors,
yet, I also love floral and edgy garments. I cannot make up my mind! Therefore, I cannot say there
is one particular designer I favor, there are just too many amazing ones. I must admit, as of
recent, I have been very inspired by the Erdem collections, personally and photographically.
While fashion does inspire my photographs, my stimulus is limitless and I must admit, my biggest
inspiration comes from art history and paintings. Portraits in painting in particular have to be my
main inspiration, and I believe as a result of studying those works of arts so closely, I tend to
approach my fashion photography and compose my subjects in a similar style. I am also known
for intentionally toying with my camera lenses to yield soft photographs, which are not always well
received. Some photographers whose work I admire are Peter Lindbergh, Javier Vallhonrat,
Paolo Roversi, Sarah Moon and Deborah Turbeville to name a few.
I saw on your website that you are inspired by religion and solitude; would you mind speaking to those two influences a bit?
In the past, I have used photography to explore religious themes, and am drawn to and often photograph what some people refer to as cold, dark and somber landscapes, perhaps in an effort to explore and convey my definition of solitude. There is beauty to be found in grey wintery skies, the bare branches on trees, dry shrubs or an icy body of water--I find these to be soothing and profoundly beautiful vistas. Taking the time to examine and photograph such scenes is not only calming but allows me the opportunity for self-reflection.
All images used with permission of the artist.