Thalía Gochez empowers her community through the bold styling of her photographic portraits
The LA-based photographer discusses how her background in fashion informs the way she tells stories through her practice.
- Elfie Thomas
- 21 January 2022
“I’ve always been interested in combining a fashion-rich visual, while also highlighting story and identity,” says Thalía Gochez. Through her practice, she wants to make a safe place for Black people and people of colour to express themselves freely and to feel beautiful. Getting her subjects to collaborate in the styling process is an important part of that. “I create for my community and if they feel seen and find sanctuary in my work, then I’ve done my job — I don’t need mainstream America’s approval to know that the folks I capture and their stories are beautiful,” she says.
Thalía first got into photography by way of a fashion styling class at her local community college. While working with a photographer on a project, she “instantly wanted to take the camera from him” and shoot the project herself. After that she bought a camera for $1 at a local flea market and began documenting all the “beauty” she saw in her community. She finds inspiration everywhere, “whether it’s how someone is standing at a bus stop or how a lady who works at the grocery store did her hair”.
Thalía’s background in fashion has had a lasting impact on the way she takes photos. The women in her images sport ribboned braids, diamanté-encrusted eyebrows and striking makeup looks. Empowering her subjects through bold styling, Thalía tells the stories of people in her community. “I typically shoot folks in environments that mirror their identity, which tends to always be their homes, neighbourhoods and just spaces that are extremely personal and meaningful to them,” she explains.
One of her favourite projects to work on was Hermanas de Sangre, which means “blood sisters” in Spanish. In this photo series we meet Xhiyo and Naomi. Thalía’s lens follows the pair around their childhood neighbourhood in the Mission district of San Francisco. The series highlights the powerful bond between her two subjects, but the images are also touched by a sense of sadness. It is the story of “shared heartbreak”, Thalía explains. The streets that the two women wander through are becoming heavily gentrified. The sense of loss which the images portray reflects a strong “collective” feeling amongst the people in the community.
Thalía tells us that Hermanas de Sangre was the first project that taught her the “power and impact” of photography as a creative tool for telling stories. Dos Sangres or “Two Bloods” was another project which she particularly enjoyed. With a very “subject-led” approach, the series “aimed to amplify the voices of mix cultural identities”, she explains. The project had real personal significance to Thalía. Growing up in LA with mixed Salvadoran and Mexican heritage, she often struggled “connecting and balancing” these two parts of her identity, so Dos Sangres creates a space where these cultural identities are celebrated.
Following her dream of uplifting identities which often get less visibility, Thalía is now working on a photo book entitled De donde eres? (“Where are you from?”), which focuses on the stories of immigrants. We hope to see it released by December.
Thalía Gochez: Sarita for Converse “Mi Barrio” Campaign (Copyright © Thalía Gochez, 2021)
About the Author
Elfie joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in November 2021 after finishing an art history degree at Sussex University. She is particularly interested in creative projects which shed light on histories that have been traditionally overlooked or misrepresented.