Miami-based photographer Gabriela Mendez showcases bold and ethereal portraits, seemingly unaware of her ability to capture the emotions and beauty of the unconventional models she works with. Could it be her youth and passion? At only eighteen and already making a name for herself, her photographs being admired on Instagram and anywhere online, she understands the benefits and repercussions of using these platforms to work.
She intends to continue taking pictures, expanding into fashion photography and one day owning a gallery – always remaining her own boss, of course. Mendez values colour above all, recognizing that her style and visual identity are still developing and changing. We talk with her about colour-filled bathtubs, the importance of social media, and her future plans.
For the readers who don’t know you yet, who is Gabriela Mendez?
Gabriela Mendez is an eighteen-year-old Latina photographer from Miami, who also curates her own art shows and is her own boss.
How did you get started with photography?
I would bring my camera to school parties and anywhere I went, basically. I then realized I wanted to start coming up with my own ideas to create something that’s mine.
What message or impression – if any –, do you want your photographs to transmit?
Colourful. I want people to see my work and be intrigued by it to see that it’s different.
In your own words, could you tell us what defines your aesthetic? How was the process of developing a personal style, and in what ways has it changed from the early beginnings to now?
I would describe my aesthetic as colourful and playful. And regarding the process, it manifested itself; I didn't even realize it until it was pointed out to me that my style now is completely different from what it was in the beginning. I didn't specialize in portraits and didn't have a style. I was just a chick with a camera.
You seem to have an affinity for portraits and are really able to capture powerful emotions in your images. Do you think that shooting close-ups enables this raw edge and insight to the subject being photographed? What do you like the most about portraying people?
Yes, the main reason I capture portraits is that you can see the emotion and it grabs your attention. What I like the most about portraying people is the people; humans are so beautiful and unique, especially up close.
There is a strong ethnic diversity in the repertoire of models you photograph. Is there anything you look for specifically when casting a model?
I try to avoid shooting basic looking models – those we constantly see in magazines.
We see your models submerged in vibrant-coloured waters in a lot of your images. What does this water represent?
The water represents nothing; there is no hidden meaning to them. It’s a series I decided to do and stuck with.
Do you prefer to shoot outside in natural light or indoors in a more produced environment? Why?
I found colourful walls driving around in Miami. I shoot indoors sometimes depending on the concept, but I feel like I have worked more in an open environment.
You showcase your work mostly through Instagram. What are your thoughts on this platform and way of image sharing as an artist?
Instagram is a huge platform for artists; it helps you find jobs, models, and locations. It has helped me greatly, but it has its cons as well: it has become about the hype. Some people will only work with you if they see that you have a high following. It starts getting disrespectful.
Some of your images could pass for a contemporary brand’s lookbook. Is being a fashion photographer something you’re interested in?
I just started branching out in different directions and I could see myself working in fashion.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself being my own boss in Europe, running my own gallery.