“On a perfect day, I wake up and fill my eyes with inspiration,” photographer Devyn Galindo tells It’s Nice That. This means consuming art from the “past, present and future,” and heading for a stroll to a gallery or watching an artist’s documentary. Other times, they’ll indulge in a long walk or drive to the city of Los Angeles, or revel in the energy of the people around them. Once the ideas are flowing, everything is written down and then revisited at a later date, over and over again. “On a lacklustre day, I wake up and stay alive. Which sometimes is an accomplishment in itself.”
Devyn, originally from Garden Grove, is a queer Xicanx artist and photographer based in California. Bouncing from state to state, they grew up in a somewhat nomadic lifestyle. A keen traveller as a result, this instilled an ability to notice and appreciate the smaller moments that regularly sweep us by. “This taught me the beauty of impermanence and has created this very transient nature in me that informs my work,” they say. “Everything is fleeting and mysterious!” In this regard, change plays an important role in Devyn’s practice, whether that’s through a commission piece for Vogue, Facebook, Adidas, Tommy Hilfiger and Converse, or a personal project lensing themes on queer love, or an ongoing series capturing LGBTQIA+ stories on the road in a 1978 VW van.
What first started out as a mere fascination – fuelled by a collection of disposable cameras at the age of 12 – soon grew into a full-fledged career. Devyn’s always been fascinated by the medium of photography, so much so that they'll remain “completely mystified by photography as a medium" until the age of 99. They also dabble in a few other bits too, such as working with film and visual arts, yet photography seems to always come out on top. It’s a passion that goes hand in hand with their love of change. “I’m most likely a time traveller between the 1960s and 2040s,” Devyn adds. “I’m very influenced by the incredible queer artists that came before me.” This includes American photographers Laura Aguilar and Catherine Opie, as well as numerous painters for the ways in which they use shape, design and light. Music is another key influence, and Devyn often gets lost in an album for weeks at a time – most recently it was the sounds of Alice Coltrane.
When all these influences are in tow, that’s when Devyn will pick up the camera and start to shoot. Mostly, their subjects are people from their community, “my beautiful queers, Xicanx, trans, non-binary and POC fam,” Devyn says. “This is the work I’ve been focused on for a really long time, because it’s all an extension of my own identity and experience on this planet. There are horrible injustices happening all around us in these communities, and I feel a deep responsibility to create images that make people feel seen and powerful.” As such, Devyn spends time getting to know their subjects, making sure to revisit them again and again after their initial meet. “I believe earning trust and going deeper leads to more intimate and thoughtful work.”
An example of Devyn’s thoughtful and compelling practice can be seen in a series called Butch Ballet, created in collaboration with Gina Young – the director of a play with the same name. “The project celebrates masc of centre queers, non-binary, transmen and dykes,” says Devyn, who brought the cast of Gina’s play into their studio to take their picture. The outcome is a compilation of portraits that subvert the stereotypes often associated with ballet, that which pairs the dance with a more "butch" representation. “I’m obsessed with exposing this in my own personal presentation and also creating more images that celebrate duality.”
This series, alongside all of their works for that matter, is part of Devyn’s longstanding quest for representation within their community. “I hope my audience is full of radical and beautiful queer and POCs that see themselves in my work,” they say, “and people that want to champion more art like this.” Devyn’s goal is to see their work take up more space and for it to be shown in more galleries. “We deserve more representation in the art world,” Devyn concludes. “I hope to break down some of those barriers for women, POC and queer artists in the future.”
GalleryCopyright © Devyn Galindo, 2020
Devyn Galindo: Butch Ballet (Copyright © Devyn Galindo, 2020)
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.