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Race & Equity

Charlotte’s Latinx photographers find a home at OBRA Collective

1. Los Fotografos.jpg
Álvaro Serey
Photographer Ernesto Moreno snaps a selfie with Carlos Romero (left), Katherine Garcia and Héctor Vaca Cruz. Missing from the photo is Jaime Couret, the fifth photographer participating in the show.

A Charlotte-based arts collective will gather on June 17 at 7 p.m., with an invitation to explore the worlds of five local, Latinx photographers. The event is being held at the Visual and Performing Arts Center, also known as VAPA, on North Tryon Street.

The featured artists claim diverse roots with heritage in Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador and Puerto Rico. Charlotte’s OBRA Collective Gallery in the VAPA Center is where they find common ground and the opportunity to connect with other Latinx creatives.

2. Los Fotografos.jpg
Álvaro Serey
Héctor Vaca Cruz poses with one of the images he has on display for Los Fotógrafos.

Los Fotógrafos or the Photographers marks the first exhibition of the year for the artist collective OBRA, an acronym for Observe, Bridge, Respond, Art. It is also a word that can mean artwork in Spanish.

Héctor Vaca Cruz describes the collective as a space for immigrants, Latinx, undocumented people and their allies.

“We are multidisciplinary. So, we have painters, we have singers, we have photographers. The point is that we promote the culture and the arts of the Latinx community,” he said.

3. Los Fotografos.jpg
Álvaro Serey
Ernesto Moreno gravitates towards images of happiness in his photography.

Vaca Cruz is one of the five photographers on display at the VAPA Center and will join a panel discussion at the space, starting at 7 p.m. Friday.

Like the other OBRA photographers, Vaca Cruz is bilingual. Born in New York and raised in South Carolina, he has heritage in Puerto Rico and Ecuador.

“The people of each country have their perspectives, based on their cultures but also on the cultures that we were born into in the United States. That has influenced how we look at things,” he said.

4. Los Fotografos.jpg
Álvaro Serey
Katherine Garcia finds inspiration from her friendships and heritage as a Mexican American.

Katherine Garcia, another featured artist, draws inspiration from her experience as a first-generation Mexican American.

“I kind of try to showcase a little bit of everything from my friends’ ideas and makeup and artwork to music as well as the places I grew up in,” she said. “One of the photos I have here is from my grandparents’ home that my dad grew up in until he was five years old before they moved to Mexico City. That's in Contepec, Michoacan.”

The range of perspectives and styles presented in Los Fotógrafos is wide - from scenes of traditional Latin American street foods and hometowns to punk rock shows and imagery inspired by Italian futurism.

One repeating theme is capturing moments of joy. Ernesto Moreno explains that with the stresses of the pandemic and everyday life, he is drawn to scenes of happiness in his photography.

“With everything that has happened in the pandemic - relatives, friends and neighbors who have left us - all of that goes away when you’re taking photographs,” Moreno said. “That’s the most beautiful part.”

Moreno says there are many more Latino photographers and artists based in North Carolina who are looking for outlets to show off their talent. For now, OBRA Collective provides one of those spaces.

Los Fotógrafos will remain on display until July 2 with OBRA offering pre-booked, guided tours.

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