I get several people tagging models and photographers on my Instagram account. Like a night fox, they drop someone's name in my feed and then promptly disappear…never saying a word and never hearing from them again. I've always been conflicted on how to react to this.
Some days I am cranky, frustrated and very protective of my work. I know where it ends up. I see someone who's never done anything remotely related to paint suddenly posting images that are disturbingly similar. Sometimes they even end up getting featured all over and praised by their originality. Sometimes they’re sent by friends. Usually followed by messages like “DID YOU SEE THIS!" or "dude this this guy copied your work".
Then there's that repetitive question I get, always from a photographer: What paint do you use? This one makes me want to write an essay how I experiment with paint so I can tell those stories about the long nights where my wife and I would microwave play dough. Or the time I used the wrong paint and ended up getting two different bathtubs completely clogged. Or even the time that we baked colored powder and we ended up looking like something straight out of Breaking Bad..
It makes me wonder what my neighbors think about the funky smells that can come out of my apartment. Short answer: it's never just one source of paint; I’m still experimenting and changing things around.
There are days however, when I stop myself from being so defensive, I realize that inspiration comes to us all in many forms.
My mother used to work long hours at Plaza Las Americas mall in Puerto Rico. She would pick us up after school and take care of us at work. We would spend long hours in a huge shopping mall trying to figure out a way to kill time. A lot of that time was spent in the now defunct Borders thumbing through photography books for what felt like an eternity.
Being amazed by how incredible David’s La Chappelle's use of color was. Gazing at Jaume de la Iguana’s incredible cinematic look. Observing Helmut Newton’s and trying to understand his take on the female form. I still remember the smell, the feel and texture of those books. The heavy photography paper in my hands felt so rich. It’s why I love the physical medium so much.
I still do this!
I realize then that people thumbing through my instagram is just a modern version of what I was doing and I’m mostly being silly. I get back to feeling proud that someone is looking through my images and new stories are being inspired from my work. I remember that if I didn't embrace experimentation and failures I wouldn't have found the love for what I’m doing today. It has led me to some incredible moments.
At the end of the day my images are creating a narration, a conversation and maybe one day after I'm dead and gone there will be someone thumbing through my books, digital or otherwise, with a bright eyes feeling just as inspired as I was.