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Aaron Joel Santos – Hidden Elements of Perfection

Dialogues with the Travel Photographer Aaron Joel Santos

What inspi­red you to beco­me a photographer? 

I’ve always been inte­res­ted in sto­ry­tel­ling and image­ry, both tog­e­ther and sepa­r­ate­ly. From clas­sic lite­ra­tu­re, to pain­ting, to gra­phic novels, and, obvious­ly, pho­to­gra­phy. I stu­di­ed lite­ra­tu­re as an under­grad, and mino­red in gra­phic design. Pho­to­gra­phy for me was the per­fect syn­the­sis of all the­se things, and a medi­um whe­re the pos­si­bi­li­ties for explo­ra­ti­on felt real­ly qui­te limit­less. Did you stu­dy and train as a pho­to­gra­pher abroad? I went to the New Eng­land School of Pho­to­gra­phy in Boston.

What kind of aspect in your pho­to­gra­phy can you defi­ne as some­thing like a per­so­nal mission?

I don’t know about having a per­so­nal mis­si­on. As with pho­to­gra­phy its­elf, I feel like my style and mis­si­on are con­stant­ly evol­ving. Though always cen­te­red around this idea of memo­ry and per­so­nal histo­ry. But if that’s the sort of con­stant, my actu­al work has gone through many fil­ters: fine art, docu­men­ta­ry, tra­vel, and even com­mer­cial work. But wit­hin all of the­se, I try to stay wit­hin my frame­work, this idea of memo­ry and per­so­nal history.

How has your pho­to­gra­phic work deve­lo­ped sin­ce the ear­ly days of your career?

I’m a lot more com­for­ta­ble with my work the­se days, more con­fi­dent. But I think that just comes with expe­ri­ence. It’s more inter­na­tio­nal, for sure but that’s becau­se I tra­vel around the world for my work, so it’s kind of an ine­vi­ta­bi­li­ty. It’s beco­me broa­der as well, less nar­row­ly focu­sed, but I think that, too, comes from expe­ri­ence and get­ting older. When I was a stu­dent, I mimi­cked my pro­fes­sors, becau­se they were my most immedia­te source of influ­ence. Once I moved past that, I was able to figu­re out who I was as a pho­to­gra­pher and not just rely on what I thought was appro­pria­te for edi­to­ri­al, docu­men­ta­ry, or fine art pho­to­gra­phy. All disci­pli­nes that can, at the worst of times, suf­fer from self-impo­sed restric­tions and some­thing of a herd mentality.

How would you descri­be your own style?

A litt­le grungy with ele­ments of per­fec­tion hid­den some­whe­re under all that grit and grime.

What has been the grea­test revo­lu­ti­on in the histo­ry of photography?

The advent of digi­tal pho­to­gra­phy was, is, and will con­ti­nue to be ground­brea­king. It cut my lear­ning cur­ve in half, and has hel­ped me grow as a pho­to­gra­pher much more quick­ly than I ever thought possible.

Your sub­jects are also cele­bri­ties. What makes you pick them?

I don’t make any dis­tinc­tions bet­ween the peop­le I pho­to­graph. Ever­yo­ne has a uni­que look and a uni­que way of see­ing the world and reac­ting to it, all of which I’m aiming to cap­tu­re in a portrait.

Can we see your work any­whe­re else?

I’ve had work in nume­rous group shows throughout the years, and I’m cur­r­ent­ly in talks with two gal­le­ries in the grea­ter Bos­ton area about put­ting on a solo show later in 2016.

Which pho­to from ano­t­her pho­to­gra­pher impres­ses you the most?

I’m a huge fan of Sal­ly Mann, and some of her images of her fami­ly and her daugh­ters are so beau­ti­ful and other­world­ly they make me want to give up on pho­to­gra­phy entirely.

What are your per­so­nal goals for the future and your next steps when it comes to photography?

I’d love to keep working with the gre­at cli­ents I’m cur­r­ent­ly working with, as well as gain new ones, of cour­se. On a more per­so­nal level, I’d like to see my work reach new levels. I’d like to shoot more film and Pola­roids and expe­ri­ment more with some his­to­ri­cal pro­ces­ses and tech­ni­ques. I’d like to find time in my sche­du­le to explo­re some more eso­te­ric and far-reaching ide­as. And of cour­se I’d like to see my work reach a lar­ger audi­ence. I’d like to work on a few col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve pro­jects, both with other pho­to­graph­ers and with orga­niz­a­ti­ons that are doing work I respect around the world.

Aaron Joel Santos

web: aaronjoelsantos.com

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Won­der­ful Machi­ne: Port­fo­lio

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