‘Let the photos speak for themselves instead of explaining everything.’
Tell us something about Puerto Rico that no one knows.
This is probably one of the hardest questions I always get all the time (laughing). Putting aside our political and economic issues we do the best we can to enjoy the things we got. We enjoy never ending beach days,we have the best Piña Coladas in the world,we eat rice and beans for the 7th time in a row and we love it. I mean you can go to the river in the morning,after that beach at mid-day and go skate to your local DIY spots to finish a good day. Honestly you just gotta come to enjoy all these things and more. Photos of Puerto Rico are great,but the experience one on one is where the magic is. It’s breath taking,exciting and the best part of all its that everything is beautiful including the people and our culture.
How would you describe the SB community in Puerto Rico to a foreigner?
Very welcoming and humble,we’re always hyped to show people around; from a street spot, DIY or our locals skateparks to our beaches and rivers. But honestly my favorite part is how everyone hypes one another when landing any trick. Maybe you just started skating and haven’t learnt a 50-50 but there’s always someone around to cheer you up. You can ask for tips,and we will help out any way we can. I still remember when I started skating and I felt a little bit insecure about my skating and I didn’t even talk to anyone. Thanks to the friends I made and the people I’ve met since day one skating I left all my insecurities and started doing the same with everyone. We’ve all been there,so I try to do the same that everyone did for me when I first started.
What are some of the top skate spots in Puerto Rico?
If its DIY spots there’s “Gongo” in Las Piedras, “Punta Las Marías” Isla Verde, “Mangosta” in Trujillo Alto, “Refugio” in Morovis and “Arecibo”. We just don’t depend on the government to have a place to skate. If you wanna go street you have to go to Old San Juan,Luis Muños Rivera Park, Rio Piedras Plaza de Convalecencia and many more in other towns away from the metro area. Good news is nothing here is far away.
‘Good news is nothing here is far away.’
Can you tell us something about yourself?
I’m a dinosaur freak okay (laughing). I just love them since The Land Before Time, Jurassic Park or Godzilla movies. But at the age of 6 is when I stepped on my first board thanks to my older brothers. I always wanted to be like them so what better way than skateboarding. After elementary I asked my mom to drop me by the Moisty Skatepark when it was recently opened. It was located on top of a parking lot like the 7th floor, I think. Can you imagine the heat we were having (laughing). Me and my friends didn ’t care. We just had a blast. Thanks to skateboarding I actually got over of most of my fears like talking to people,started learning new things instead of always thinking about failure. I know it sounds a little bit clich é but it ’s just the way it is. Now I ’m 30 years old and I am living my best life. If I could turn back time I wouldn ’t change anything I did. Not even my mistakes. They made me the proud person I am today.
Assuming you started off skateboarding at what point did you move to photography and why?
Around the time I started skating at Moisty like 2004, I asked my mom for a camera. She got me one of those point and shoot cameras. I think it was a Sony Cybershot. Maybe it was not a professional one,but it filmed and took photos that ’s all I really cared about anyway. That ’s probably the time where I fell in love with photography. Not just because of taking photos but the feelings I was saving into those moments. After that I was supposed to study psychology but things took a different turn. So I just went ahead and studied photography. Told my parents if I was gonna study something might as well be something I love and not think so much about the money. We had our differences but in time they noticed I was getting really good at it so they supported me all the way thru.
Is there one skateshot you wish you had taken?
Not so much wish to have taken certain photos but instead experiencing the moment. Like Atibas legendary photo of Andrew Reynolds FS Flip and everybody just standing in awe at that moment. Those photos have inspired me to be able to have moments like these. I do wish I could have photographed more of Robert Lopez Mont when he was just destroying every skate spot in PR. The dude is and will always be a legend. Even so at least I was able to take a photo before he passed away. May he rest in peace (RIP).
Proudest moment as a photographer?
I would say when I took a photo adventure with “Atreyu” bassist Porter McKnight,he gave me photo pass to photograph “Ice Nine Kills”, “Memphis May Fire” “Sleep Signals” and of course “Atreyu”. Does photos come out so good and it was all in a single day,probably the best day of my life too. Still I feel really proud all the time I’ve exhibit a photo of skateboarding back in my collage years at University Of Sacred Heart. I actually found photography thru skateboarding,so I feel like I should give something back to skateboarding. Especially if it’s showing the skate community of Puerto Rico.
Is there any post-production you do? If so, how far do you go?
After already scheduled my skater and visualize the trick, I always observe my spot 15 minutes before grabbing my camera. The better I clean the spot, the less work I’m gonna be having in Photoshop or Lightroom. Take care of that before you even grab your camera. After that I watch all the angles possible for my composition,maybe fisheye is better than long-lens or the other way around. Pick your poison. But I do wanna tell a story of what happens that day. That’s how I see it. Telling a story in a photograph. Let the photos speak for themselves instead of explaining everything. I’ll go as far as breaking my own limits. I just want to capture that moment where you just feel something when you look into that photograph. Yes,having Photoshop and Lightroom is an important part but capturing that essence is probably the most important part of my photography. What good is editing if you are not telling the viewer something.
Are you able to make an income with your photography? If yes, can you explain how?
Fortunately I’ve had the blessing to be able to have gigs every now and then. In PR most photographers are associated by just doing weddings. But I rather go Real Estate or photographing a local business. Skate photography is amazing don’t get me wrong,but if you wanna have more you gotta learn more even if it’s not your type of photography. A friend of mine Juliana Morales does Food Styling and she is amazing at it. She calls me to assist her,and I never say no to her. Her style is way different from mine but I love learning something new from my friends and colleagues. Even if it’s not about skateboarding photos I still feel the same joy photographing as I do when I’m skateboarding with my friends. In this business if you wanna make a good income you gotta learn as much as you can. You do that and I promise you won’t ever feel like you’re working.
‘You do that and I promise you won’t ever feel like you’re working.’
Have you ever thought of moving to the States to advance your photography career?
I actually did move to the states in October 2017. Reasons why I left was because we got hit by hurricane Maria. I think it was category 5 when it went thru the south of PR. So,after that a lot of people were jobless with no power or water for months. Leaving my island was probably one of the hardest choices I had to make in my life. Saying goodbye to family and friends it’s hard but I needed to advance my photography. I ended up moving to Orlando and went berserk looking for photography jobs everywhere. Being completely honest photography over there was kinda bad. Income was equally bad and not worth the time. Instead of working in photography I was making better income as a bartender assistant in The Boathouse, Disney Springs. Even though I wasn’t working as a photographer I went ahead and started to photograph concerts of my favourite bands, landscapes,and more. I even started photographing my own car just in case I had a gig for a car dealership or something. Lucky for me when I came back to PR in 2020,a car dealership agency’s that work for Hyundai started calling me to take photos of their new models. You never know what you’re gonna get in life,so might as well be ready for anything that comes your way.
Last question. If you could interview one person, who would it be and why?
Jonathan Mehring. Not only just only photographed pro skaters around the world but he also helped build skateparks around the world for many children who are still discovering this passion for skateboarding. I’m hoping that someday I can help other people around the world through my skateboarding and my camera.