In collaboration with Slate's photo blog, Behold, we are extending the conversation with some of their featured photographers.
Alejandro Cartagena’s images of young, joyous concertgoers that make up his series Bliss, are a reflection of the last feelings of happiness Cartagena felt as a teenager. At 13, he moved from his home in the Dominican Republic to Mexico, a change that was emotionally scarring and stuck with Cartagena into adulthood; working on the project was therapeutic for the Mexican-based photographer. Bliss is currently on view at Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles through December 20. Cartagena also recently published a book, Carpoolers. He spoke with us about his work ethic and how he built his relationships with his galleries. Go here to read the full interview.
Talk a bit about your process of becoming a fine art photographer.
At the beginning of my career I was doing work for myself and trying to get into contests and group exhibitions, and I was lucky enough to have galleries take me in. Whenever I have new work they’re always looking to see what they can show: they take it to art fairs or they put on a solo show. My career has shifted a little bit in that I have this outlet where I can put out the things I am thinking about.
How did Bliss become something you wanted to show in a gallery?
Bliss came out after three projects were done that didn’t even make my website. I’m always doing new work but then sometimes you get this moment of something that works both visually and conceptually. Sometimes the galleries are interested, other times other venues are interested; I’m always doing new work basically because I’m hyperactive and can’t stop doing stuff.
When you first started out, did you want to be part of the fine art world?
I’m not going to say everybody but that’s something you see when you’re completely outside (of gallery life), the possibility of making enough money to do what you love to do, instead of relying on grants or another job to put that money into your personal work. It’s a dream come true to be able to produce work, publish work and exhibit work to make money in order to do more work. I’m not making money: I’m getting money back to do work every single time. At this stage, the money that comes in I put back into my career and to explore things that are in my head right now. At the beginning it was something I aspired to and I didn’t know how to do it. The way it happened was for me to do consistent, good work and eventually things catch up and the gallery notices I’ve done many successful projects.