Kari Orvik, Geneva
In a city that is in a constant state of transformation, the present is almost as unreliable as the future. There is no guarantee that what you see, hear, smell and feel as you make your way through neighborhood to neighborhood will be the same from one day to the next. My current series, Geneva, is a time-sensitive personal inquiry at the intersection of Geneva Avenue and Mission Street in San Francisco’s Excelsior district.
This corner is the location of my tintype portrait studio. Over the past year I have begun to build relationships with longtime family business owners, residents who work, live and pass through this bustling intersection in order to create a document of change, presence and relationships using large format film negative, ambrotypes and tintypes, made on the street as well as in the studio.
I recognize that my studio’s location is also a part of this neighborhood's impending transformation. For the past 9 years I have incorporated the historical photographic process of wet-plate collodion into my work as a way of understanding the changes to the environment around me. The physical nature of this handmade process and its visual allusions to the past offers a different palette of photographic possibilities to look at memory and change over time in a city that never stays the same.
Kari Orvik moved to the Bay Area from Alaska and became a photographer while working in affordable housing in San Francisco. She has set up public portrait studios in SRO’s, BART plazas, and on rooftops in the Mission. Her work focuses on memory and change over time, which she explores through the historical photographic process of tintypes. From a portable darkroom she makes long-exposure tintypes of urban landscapes that document time passing in ever-changing San Francisco neighborhoods. She also employs this process for her personal narrative project "Exercises for Moving in Between", much of which was completed at the Headlands Center for the Arts, where she was a graduate fellow. Her work has been featured on the cover of San Francisco Magazine, in exhibitions at SF Camerawork and the Headlands Center for the Arts. A graduate of Stanford University, she received her MFA at UC Berkeley, and grants through the San Francisco Foundation’s Murphy and Cadogan Fellowship and the San Francisco Arts Commission. A former studio photographer at Photobooth SF, she currently operates her own tintype portrait studio in San Francisco – kariorviktintypestudio.com.
Kathya Landeros, HOMBRECITOS & MUJERCITAS
Within my family narrative there are many tales of hardworking kinfolk who emigrated from Mexico to the United States. It includes stories of my second great grandfather working in Arizona’s mines; my grandfather who worked as a Bracero (a bilateral government sponsored agricultural work program); and my grandmother and parents who came to California and worked as farmhands. My family’s legacy of migration has revealed to me the inextricable ties between the two countries and its people. As a Mexican-American, my work to seeks to explore this history - and photography - as a means by which to differentiate the Latino immigrant experience from the divisiveness of borderlands, violence, and poverty.
My current photographic work, Hombrecitos & Mujercitas, is a chapter of this ongoing work. It focuses on adolescent Latino youth located primarily in my hometown of Sacramento. Translated from Spanish, hombrecitos and mujercitas mean little men and little women. Using a large format camera, I have made portraits of little men and little women caught at an age between childhood and adulthood. It is a time in their life when they bear an ethereal and tender quality - something that has been most typically and historically assigned to adolescents, but rarely to young people of color.
My motivation for this project was to represent these hombrecitos and mujercitas in a manner that belies the stereotyping of Latinos, and to exemplify the impressionability and vulnerability that characterize adolescence. As hombrecitos and mujercitas face the complexities and social realities of race, gender, and class, their susceptibility is especially poignant; any misgivings we hold as a society about these young men and women not only shape our public perception of Latinos, but ultimately affect the way that young Latino men and women view and shape themselves as they enter adulthood.
The children in these portraits are recent immigrants, from countries such as El Salvador, Colombia and Mexico. Or, like myself, they are first generation born to immigrant parents. So, they are not only straddling the worlds of childhood and adulthood but also of two cultures. I have also included portraits of my family, who served as the inspiration for this project. In particular, my nephews who never fail to warm my heart as I see them navigate the rites of passage into adulthood. In these young men and women I have met and photographed, I see semblances of the people closest to me - the people that I love the most.
Thank you Rayko Photo Center for supporting this project, and a special thanks to the students and families from Rosa Parks Middle School who opened their homes to me.
Kathya Maria Landeros is a photographer and educator who lives and works from her hometown of Sacramento, California. Her photographic work is informed by her bi-cultural upbringing and often explores Mexican-American identity and the immigrant experience. For over a decade, she has worked on long-term personal projects documenting Latino communities throughout California’s northern Central Valley and other parts of the American West. The recipient of a Fulbright Fellowship, she has also photographed and lived in Mexico. She currently serves as a Fulbright Ambassador. Prior to earning a graduate degree in photography from Massachusetts College of Art and Design, she received an undergraduate degree in English literature and Hispanic studies from Vassar College.