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Hispanic Heritage Month: 5 LatinX photographers telling powerful stories

With Hispanic Heritage Month in full force from September 15 to October 15, the spotlight is back on the Latinx community and its achievements throughout a year marked by a pandemic and the exposition of a myriad of social issues.

In a year that has seen powerful narratives put into perspective, it’s time to recognize what Latinx photographers bring to the table.

As a part of that exposition, the Latinx community’s visual storytellers have stepped up to bat. From COVID-19 to climate change to gentrification to Mickey Mouse, here are five Hispanic creatives who are telling high-impact stories through their photography.

Sebastián Hidalgo was raised among giants in Chicago’s Mexico

Sebastián Hidalgo hispanic photographer
Pictured: Sebastián Hidalgo

Proud to be “raised among giants in Chicago’s Mexico,” Pilsen native Sebastián Hidalgo plies his trade as a photojournalist by representing various facets of the Mexican-American identity as well as the pressing issues confronting the wider black and brown community.

His visual repertoire features coverage of gentrification, community infrastructure, and attitudes towards immigrants and policy.

The emergence of the pandemic was yet another chapter, and his ongoing project ‘History continues to do its dirty work’ continued to incorporate each of these themes to highlight the intersection between COVID-19 and systemic racism.

When 13-year-old boy Adam Toledo was killed by Chicago police, Hidalgo took shots of the ensuing protests to visualize the anguish of yet another life taken by the hands of police brutality.

A veteran photographer for the likes of National Geographic, The New York Times, ProPublica, and The Wall Street Journal, Hidalgo hopes to inspire the next generation to take up the mantle of telling powerful stories through photography.

“You can work most uncontrollable issues into something maneuverable. It take intension and a step by step process. Work with what you have. Build on it with a simple task to get started. Don’t give up.”

Sebastián Hidalgo

Hidalgo is currently guiding a local Chicago program unveiled by Apple and several other local groups offering five weeks of free training and access to photography resources to underrepresented youth.

See more of his work here.

Joana Toro is documenting stories of freedom

Pictured: Joana Toro

Documentary photographer Joana Toro is a Colombian creative on the move. Switching between two cities — New York City and Bogota — she captures issues of Hispanic Heritage, immigration, human rights, and identity confronting the Latinx community.

“Migration and identity are a constant in my work, they are the topics that I am interested in documenting, and they are stories that are worthwhile and that inspire others. They are stories of freedom.”

Joana Toro

To that end, Toro has an eye for finding unexpected angles to confront underreported issues. Her coverage of the pandemic through the lenses of as well as the costumed entertainers of Times Square and its effect on the underrepresented TransLatinx community landed her two features in the 2021 Photoville Festival.

Where is Mickey?’ covers how the loss of tourism during COVID affected Times Square’s street entertainers.  It features as a part of the ‘Eyewitness: Who Tell Stories of Our Time?’ project by the Pulitzer Center and Diversify Photo.

The latter series,‘TransLatinx Resilience against COVID-19’, was unveiled at the Queens Museum. Toro released the project in the wake of TransLatina activist Lorena Borjas’s passing, a heavy loss for the community.

Both works debuted on September 18th and will be available to view until December 1.

More of Toro’s work can be found here.

Josué Rivas is a stroytelling climate champion

hispanic heritage month
Pictured: Josué Rivas

An LA-based creative hailing from the indigenous Otomi community in Mexico, Josué Rivas uses his visual storytelling to champion the issues and perspectives of indigenous peoples and lead a charge to revamp mainstream media.

The reality is the photo, film, and art industry are colonized. By that, I mean that we have been telling the story of humanity from a colonizer perspective and I believe these are the times to change it… so that we can move forward and decolonize the media.

Josué Rivas

It is with this goal in mind that his photography focuses on the perspectives of indigenous folk. His work has covered issues such as fatherhood and the effect of climate change on indigenous communities, featuring in the New York Times and National Geographic, respectively.

hispanic heritage month
Climate change has further catalyzed the marginalization of indigenous peoples.

Seeking to spread his convictions beyond himself, Rivas has spoken at length about the importance of indigenous peoples telling their own stories. In 2017, he was invited to give a TEDx talk at Rapid City.

To view more of Rivas’s portfolio, click here.

It’s Hispanic heritage month all year round for photographer Verónica Sanchis Bencomo

Pictured: Verónica Sanchis Bencomo

A female member of the Latinx community and a photographer by trade, Verónica Sanchis has dedicated herself to promoting the storytelling of female Hispanic photographers while leading by example via her coverage of pressing foreign affairs.

One of her most recent contributions covered the crackdown and censorship of protestors in Hong Kong, Sanchis’s photography work featured Gotham, a student who was jailed for participating in protests in 2020 when the Hong Kong National Security law went into effect.

Seeking to elevate other Hispanic women using photography to tell powerful stories, Sanchis founded Foto Feminas in 2014.

The platform – currently curated by Sanchis herself –  publishes monthly features showcasing the visual stories of female photographers throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Hispanic Heritage
Photo Cred: Florence Goupil

The latest beneficiary of Sanchis’s venture is Florence Goupil, a French-Peruvian photographer handpicked for her coverage of human rights, identity, and indigenous culture.

Archives of other featured female Latinx photographers can be found on the Foto Feminas website.

Click here to see more of Sanchis’s portfolio.

Cristopher Rogel Blanquet is a social advocate in his own right

latinx photographer
Pictured: Cristopher Rogel Blanquet

Beyond his Hispanic Heritage, social issues have always been the focus of Cristopher Rogel Blanquet’s work. This focus has taken him beyond the borders of his home country of Mexico to throughout all of Central America to New York City to Syria.

Surveying Central America, Blanquet’s ‘Central American Exodus’ series chronicles the arduous journey taken on by migrant families.

Blanquet’s latest work is a series titled ‘Beautiful Poison’, a collection of photos encapsulating the pain and experiences of families marred by agrochemical practices in Mexico’s flower industry.

Shooting the project, Blanquet interacted intimately with the story he was portraying, staying with the family of Sebastian, a 19-year-old boy who was born with hydrocephalus due to the long-term effects of pesticide exposure beating the odds by outliving his predicted lifespan of five years.

His coverage of the public health crisis in Mexico’s flower fields has him in the running as one of nine finalists for the 2021 Eugene W. Smith Grant, an award celebrating compassionate photojournalism.

Blanquet spoke with Phoblographer about what getting the award for his project would mean to him.

“It’s an honor… But it is also a great responsibility that I take on with pleasure to continue with my work. I’m interested in telling stories that I wish didn’t exist, like that of Sebastián, a little boy who has been sick for a lifetime due to agrochemicals.”

Cristopher Rogel Blanquet

Five grant recipients are set to be announced some time in October.

To view more of Blanquet’s work, click here.