When I met Santiago nobody had warned me. I mean, there was no sign saying: “Warning: High Voltage! LETHAL DOSAGE”. And he wasn’t wearing one of those tags they put on mattresses that if you pull off you will be arrested by the FBI. Well, I’ve torn every single one of those bloody tags.
So I am not afraid. Here goes…
America has always been White. Then Black & White. But now it isn’t. There is a new color in town, baby. We need to legitimize ourselves by our own standards and through our own eyes. We need to document our lives and give ourselves back a sense that we do count. And are accountable.
Santiago is capturing us for us. A beautiful photo essay about our culture. Stating that we are just as good as anybody else. Why journalism? Not fashion? Not the pretty people, the people in the know, celebs?
This is about the Latin people. The beautiful anonymous ones.
One of the goals is to capture the attitude of the self. Santiago has his requirements for the project. You must be Latin of any nation, religion, race, or whatever. You must be a New Yorker (sorry bridge-and-tunnel folk). You must not mind being in the public eye. Then, once he selects his subjects, above all they must be sexy and uninhibited. He talks to his subject until he gets a clue into them. Then he brings out each individual’s personality. That is why they are shot raw, raw. Raw to the ninth. “All about the raw”.
He passionately shares his vision. No high-production, simple lighting, no gloss, no air brushing. He just wants to focus on the spirit. A cross-section of men and women who have their race in common and nothing else but that they are amazingly unique and fascinating by just being themselves. Human.
Artists, unsung heroes, blue-collar warriors. The celebration of what he calls “Hispanity”.
He has been very proud of being Hispanic since his Texas childhood and into his Los Angeles wayward youth. Even though he has worked for the white and black world. But he always knew, deep down, that being Hispanic was something very special yet totally invisible.
What does it mean to me, John, to be Hispanic? First of all it’s Latin. Hispanic is our slave name. But seriously, being Latin has been cool by me. I’ve had more fun being Latin than not. And I wouldn’t be anything else. Don’t get me wrong I’ve had my share of hard times because of it (puny, microscopic violin plays here). But it also gave me strength, my purpose and my voice, not the other way around. So, to acknowledge Santiago’s work gives me great pride and so I do with much respect.
You go for yours, son!