02 Dec Fowler in the City: The Power of Self-Representation with Las Fotos Project + Alma López
Las Fotos Project Students, Staff, and Alma López at Las Fotos Project in Boyle Heights, CA.
In October 2021, The Fowler hosted a special 2-part self-portraiture workshop with photographer Alma López and Las Fotos Project, a community-based nonprofit organization in Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, California that nurtures teenage girls and gender expansive youth through photography, mentorship, and self-expression. The workshop was inspired by the Fowler Museum’s exhibition, Photo Cameroon: Studio Portraiture 1970-1990s, which presents 110 black-and-white portraits that expand our knowledge of life and individuality during the height of studio photography in Cameroon. By choosing specific types of dress, props, and poses, Cameroonian sitters revealed their cultural, political, and religious affiliations, musical preferences, important relationships, vocations, leisure activities, and more.
Alma López | Artist Statement
In spaces where BIPOC and queer people often feel invisible, images are affirming. In my experience as a queer Mexican-born LA-based Chicana visual artist, I am in constant search of hidden histories and images that reflect my diverse and intersecting identities. In this search, portraits are powerful and life-affirming. The power of portraiture is evident in the many works included in Photo Cameroon: Studio Portraiture, 1970s-1990s and especially evident in the decade-long photographic work produced by the teenage members of Las Fotos Project.
Alma López. Self-Portrait, 2021. I am a breast cancer survivor. With this image, I wanted to have roses growing from my chest. This is not only about the pink for breast cancer, but also roses and even pose allude to other work of mine.
In Session 1, students enjoyed a trip to the Fowler Museum at UCLA for a curator-led walk-through of Photo Cameroon, followed by a lecture by Alma López about self-portraits in painting and photography throughout art history. They considered: Why is portraiture relevant? How can we utilize dress, props, and pose to speak to various facets of our identities? Alma then offered a technique demonstration for self-portraiture, including the use of backdrop, props, and her own camera and lighting. She wrapped up by sharing her own photography workflow, showing how she imports RAW photographs into Adobe Lightroom for selection and edits.
The students pondered what they learned in preparation for Session 2, a self-portrait workshop at Las Fotos Project. Students paired up to assist one another in creating their self-portraits and rotated through five stations, experimenting with props, poses, dress, backgrounds, and lighting to communicate various aspects of their identity. They selected their best 10 images for editing and offered one image each for discussion with the group before filling out their reflections forms. Selections from their reflections have been included as captions in the digital exhibition below.