Karen Arango is an independent photographer, videographer and black and white gelatin silver printer. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Photography and Digital Imaging from Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, FL. She also completed the General Studies photography program from the International Center of Photography in NYC.
Please tell me where you grew up and a bit about your background.
I was born in Colombia, and I moved to the United States when I was 9 years old. My family, parents and two siblings, was in danger because of the war going on in the country, therefore, we immigrated to the United States. When we arrived to this country my parents separated and my mother ended up raising us three alone.
Can you recall the first time you used a camera?
I can’t recall the first time, but I do remember using the old school cameras that my parents had brought with them from Colombia. They were film cameras and I must have been 10 or 11 years old when I got to use them for the first time. All I know is that around 2010 I used a panoramic camera with 110 film, and I took a photo of my brother and his friends while in ROTC in high school, I still have that photo and the cameras with me.
When did you know that photography was what you wanted to do?
I always loved art, I think almost every child does. I was lucky enough to have an art class at my school in Colombia and my parents had the means to get me art materials. In high school I decided to be an architect, and after doing the AutoCAD program during my junior year of high school I realized that it wasn’t for me. When I decided to study something more unconventional at the time, graphic design some friends and family members would tell me that I would not be able to live out of design or art but I was persistent with it, my mom supported me. I got certified in Digital Design, and after seeing Ringling’s campus and photography program, my boyfriend at the time suggested that I study photography. He would tell me I was very good at it, and I never believed him because he was my boyfriend and I thought he was just saying that. It seems like he knew me well cause since the first day I began studying photography, I fell in love with it.
What are the biggest challenges for you being a photographer?
Self motivation, I think that as an artist I need to keep myself motivated all the time, mostly to do personal work. Then finding a balance between personal and commercial work and keep the spark in my own art. It’s important for me not to let it become an obligation because I’m making money off of it. When your art becomes your means of income it can become dull and you can forget why you started doing it in the first place, but I think that as long as there is a line between commission work and personal work and we stay motivated to do our personal work, then it can be extremely magical.
What inspires you?
Life, experiences, family, friends, strangers, light, colors, compositions, music, traveling, love, nature, helping others, making mistakes, taking risks and the unknown.
Can you tell me about some of your projects?
I am currently working on a couple of projects. One is the Miss Behave series, which is about young girls born in the US and daughters of Latin American parents. I’m starting to expand on those series.
Another project I am working on is about women who were illegal immigrants and have been abused in the United States, and as a result they were able to get the Visa U. It’s something I just found out about and I think it is extremely important to talk about this. Many women, who have no immigration status, are being abused today and they are scared to say something because they fear deportation.
What is your dream situation? Is this a goal you’re working on, and if so, how’s it going?
Well when I was a child I wanted to be an actress. I’ve always loved performing arts, including dancing. I think everyone who knows me well knows how much I love dancing and every opportunity I have to do it, I take it. Deep inside I still would like to be a performance artist, but in some way I feel that I am connected to it, since I am behind the camera capturing the life performances instead of doing them.
Where can people find you?
People can find me through my website: karenarango.com, I have a contact page where you can write to me. Instagram: @karenarangor, and facebook: https://www.facebook.com/arangokarenr. I am currently living between Sarasota and NYC, so if I am not in those two cities then I am capturing a story somewhere!