Honesty, intimacy and storytelling fuel photographer Mia Vasquez’s sensitive practice
The documentary photographer uses her work to “challenge stereotypes and concepts through a sociological lens, while exploring the intersections of identity, culture and queer theory”.
- Olivia Hingley
- 22 April 2022
For photographer Mia Vasquez, perhaps the most important element of her work is its storytelling ability. “Today the digital age has altered our ability to pay attention, mindlessly scrolling”, she ponders, “I want to create meaningful things”. Seeking to portray the “vulnerability” of life, Mia also views photography as something much more than a simple visual artefact, instead, she sees it as a whole “language”. “Photography for me is a visual language. A way of communicating. I often ask myself, what do I want to communicate in my work? And how can it be translated visually?”. And, whilst often resulting in a myriad of different projects and approaches, this communication, she impresses, “always tends to be personal”.
This personal focus also results in two other two defining facets of her work, “honesty” and “intimacy”. Not only dictating the way she works, they are also the means by which Mia practices life. “Honesty is one of the values I live by. There is no other way around it”, she says, “I’m learning to embrace that sensibility, you know? I don’t only want to create beautiful imagery, there’s more to that when it comes to my process”. This sentiment is present in Mia’s beautifully candid self-portraits. In one, she sits on a bed unclothed, staring down the lens of the camera, surrounded by serene hues and textures. In another, a recent favourite of Mia’s, she stands wearing her father’s red tie and linen trousers, the piece taken in her family’s back garden. Discussing the image, Mia explains that “my hair is very short, so I present as masculine to others depending on the clothes I wear. As a queer nonbinary, I am met with a lot of questions about my identity.” So, the photographer explains, “this polaroid photo of me, feels iconic in a way”.
From its beginnings, Mia’s photography practice has been deeply personal. Raised in the East Harlem Projects, Mia took a photography elective in High School and bought herself a digital camera in 2016. Quickly transforming from a hobby into a vital means of documentation, Mia soon started a project that focused on her father and his deportation. Growing up, Mia also tells us that her mother would always have a bunch of disposable cameras lying around, a fact she now sees as having influenced her decision to begin working in analogue. “I later got into film and what I loved about it most was forgetting what I photographed and being surprised at the photos I took”, she tells us, “I fell in love with that feeling”.
Having recently moved from New York to Santo Domingo, Mia is now shining a powerful light on her new surroundings. Developing a project entitled Audiovisual Cuir (including her aforementioned self-portraits) the project “challenges hetro traditions on gender and sex binaries in the Dominican Republic”. Through the series, Mia hopes to “portray queer life in the Dominican Republic as desirable, worthy and sacred”, with an intertwined focus on portraiture and sound. With Mia’s brilliant ability to capture her subjects with sensitivity, honesty and care, we have no doubt the project will be a powerful, urgent piece of documentation.
Looking to the future, Mia is keen to expand her repertoire even further, hoping to delve into directing, producing, filmmaking and even installation art. “I feel like I’ve been at a creative high all year”, Mia finishes, “I am allowing myself to feel that, all the way through, create when I want to, take a break if I need to”.
Mia Vasquez: Audiovisual cuir (Copyright © Mia Vasquez, 2022)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.