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Photo Artist chat: Ariana Velazquez

Mar. 19, 2020
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Ariana Velazquez knows how to make a lot from a little. Based in San Diego, California, Ariana takes pride in being a photographer, stylist, and art director. The majority of her work is within fashion, her first love—but her true passion lies in collaboration and creating imagery that can expand from commercial to editorial to experimental. Ariana caught up with Adolescent and spoke on finding the magic in any project, personal or paid. 

Adolescent Content: When creating a piece, do you ever take into consideration the way that it’ll be viewed by your audience, or is it a completely personal process?

Ariana Velazquez: This process specifically was completely personal. It was one of the last times that I spent with one of my close friends before he moved out of town. We’ve shot together a few times and [felt this] was a great note to leave off on. Similarly, Chris—the subject—wanted to get some photos that represented him in this moment before he [left] San Diego. 

We didn’t really think too much would come of it, but [everything] came together perfectly. We knew [afterwards] that it was something we wanted to share with a bigger audience. Usually I go into shoots knowing who the audience will be and then create accordingly. This time we thought it was just going to be a fun project meant for the two of us, and it became so much more.

Adolescent: Were there any unexpected challenges you faced while creating it?

Ariana: I wouldn’t necessarily say “unexpected” challenges because we knew we were shooting in an unideal location when we decided to have a makeshift studio set-up in his room, but it was nevertheless a challenge to create a feeling of depth in a small space [and work] with lighting that wasn’t ideal. I like being thrown into those positions because it really teaches me how to think on my feet and get creative with the resources that are readily available to me.

Adolescent: What did you learn through the process?

Ariana: I think the biggest lesson I took away from this process was to never think of anything as small or less than anything else. Something that we thought was going to be just two friends having fun truly led me to create one of my favorite images. You really just never know. Also, the people you work with and their energy is so important. It’s always great to work with friends because you’re comfortable and creative juices flow more freely, but being able to create that environment even on a paid set or with strangers is priceless.

Adolescent: Honestly, how well do you respond to criticism?

Ariana: I think criticism for me is always hard because most of my work does come from a very personal place. However, I truly do consider myself to still be learning and always a student to my craft. I turn to a select few people that I trust and admire to critique me on all my work, no matter what it is. 

It’s difficult to take criticism when it comes from an anonymous person via comments on social media or what have you, but it’s something I want to get better with. I feel like it’s about being confident and comfortable with the work that I put out there. For many creators that’s a lifelong battle.

Adolescent: How does your art stand out from the majority of art that’s being created today?

Ariana: I’m consistently trying to create a lot with a little. Typically my projects are self-funded and even when working with clients, I’ve purposefully sought after small businesses who have low budgets as well. I think it helps me be more creative to limit myself and try to find things from the dollar store or an estate sale rather than solely depending on big businesses or brand collaborations to help me with things that I need when I produce different shoots. This is not to say that I don’t welcome more help or any and all collaborations no matter the size of the business. But it doesn’t take a big budget or a full Gucci wardrobe to create magic. 

Adolescent: How do you define success for yourself and your art?

Ariana: Success for me is such a difficult word because it feels like an end point of sorts. I don’t ever see myself feeling like “this is it, I’ve done it” at any moment. I’m always looking ahead, always wanting more, wanting to do more and wanting to create more. It may seem like a never-ending spiral but I flip it and instead of seeing an end goal as a place of success, I constantly try to remind myself of the small successes. 

With my work, I feel like I’ve succeeded when my team and the people that I work with on a project all are happy with the end product. My work is a success when I can share it on a larger platform and have people [outside of my] reach interact with it. I don’t think success is ever something that really fuels what I am doing, but it’s always a nice surprise. More than anything, the biggest success is the feeling I get when I’m on a set and everyone is enjoying themselves and I feel like we’re creating something special. It of course doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does, I know that is a true success.