Scheduled to teach:
Gina Valona (www.ginavalona.com) is a photographer, performer and arts educator who uses various mediums to process and transform personal experiences into works addressing issues of identity and sustainability. She has exhibited her photography in galleries throughout the U.S. and has performed on stage at the Getty Center Los Angeles, the Shanghai International Theatre Festival (China) the National Theatre of South Korea. Currently she is pursuing her MFA in Public Practice at OTIS College of Art and Design and is an instructor at the Los Angeles Center for Photography. Her artistic goal is to create works that spark meaningful conversations. She believes that conscious daily actions may serve as both quiet and/or radical acts of revolution that initiate positive personal, local and global change.
Gina Valona Portfolio
Julia Dean Interviews Gina Valona
LACP Founder and Executive Director Julia Dean asks Gina Valona ten questions about her background, career in and beliefs about photography.
Julia Dean: What kind of photographer are you?
Gina Valona: When I first began, I primarily shot portraiture. Headshots, family photography, fashion, editorial, self portraits. As long as their was people to connect with, I was happy. Recently though, my work has evolved and I’m using photography more conceptually. So people are not the primary subject.
JD: How long have you been shooting?
GV: I have been shooting ever since my teens.
JD: Where did you get your training?
GV: I taught myself a lot through trail and error. In the beginning, I photographed lots of my friends in the theatre and anyone else I could get to “photoplay” with me. I got my first official lesson from another photographer under the 6th street bridge in Los Angeles. From there, I took classes at Santa Monica College and did the One-Year Professional Program at LACP. Currently, I’m at OTIS College of Art and Design getting my MFA in Public Practice and I’m using photography to talk about social issues of importance to me.
JD: When did you know you wanted to devote your life to photography?
GV: I think it was when I returned from a trip in Europe. I looked at the photographs and it seemed I was no longer just taking pictures but communicating through the camera in ways I could not with words. When I returned home, my personal life was sort of falling apart and photography allowed me to get through it while also allowing me to see the beauty in life and especially in other people. My BA is in theatre, so I had been creating stage pictures for a long time. Photography allows be to continue to collaborate and connect with people and that?s the part that’s really similar to the stage. But I also love that I can take my camera out and create self portraits or work on a subject based series that doesn’t involve people. Lastly, I can use photography to talk about social issues that are important to me. An image or a series can be a doorway to opening larger conversations about social change.
JD: Did you ever come close to giving up?
GV: I’m not sure if I’d say give up. I believe photographers are artists and different artists have different ways of working. I have taken time to reflect on what I really want to say with my imagery. Sometimes, I just want to shoot a aesthetically “pretty” image and of course, I realize aesthetics are individually based. As a inhabitant on this Earth I continue to grow and learn and I have more to say about life and the society of which I am a part. Life teaches us lessons and we react or reflect on those experiences and that ultimately, is reflected in the work. We are multifaceted individuals with a multitude of interests so I’ve had to accept that my work varies in its scope. That has made me question what I want to communicate through my photography. The only thing I have given up is the blindness that an image is neutral. They always convey a message. I am now very aware of that and so I try and be thorough in what I communicate. I think teaching critical analysis of a photograph is important in that way, not just whether an image is good or bad, liked or disliked.
JD: Have you sacrificed anything by being a photographer?
GV: I’ve probably sacrificed more as an editor because I can be hyper critical of what I put out in the world and society tends to want us all to fit into a neat little box. The question, “What type of photographer are you” is sometimes a difficult one because it is market based and I don?t feel market should dictate artistic interest. But sometimes it does, because everyone has to make a living. So, in that sense, yes.
JD: What have you gained by being a photographer?
GV: Photography allows me to see the world more deeply. I see everything in pictures. It allows me to connect to people I may not have otherwise known. I see color and light in a different way that would have previously gone unnoticed. And photography get?s my juices flowing – I literally become like a kid in a candy store when it comes to photography. It makes me really happy and I have a lot of fun creating images. I have been known to do the “happy dance” a few times during a shoot.
JD: What classes do you teach at LACP?
GV: I teach Fashion Fun for Teens and Basic Digital Photography for Teens.
JD: What do you love most about teaching?
GV: Study the basics. Learn all you can about the technical aspects of photography. Learn the business side of photography. Be creative. Have fun!
JD: What advice would you give someone who is thinking about making a career in photography?
GV: I have been an arts educator for over a decade and teaching is definitely an integral part of my practice. Working with teens and helping them hone their skills and find their voice is amazing. The thing I love most about teaching is observing the moments when students see their concepts and work come alive in an image. When they are able to think conceptually and constructively about their work and bring those concepts alive in the creation of an image is when I know I’ve done my job. There is no better experience than being witness to those I teach smile with an understanding and value of their own self expression. To me, their realization that their voice and person is an important and integral part of their community and contribution to humanity is priceless. I feel so honored to be part of that process.