Charlotte’s Latinx Photographers Find a Home at OBRA Collective | WFAE 90.7

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A Charlotte-based art collective will come together on June 17, with an invitation to explore the worlds of five local Latinx photographers. The event takes place 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 at the VAPA Center is where they find common ground and the opportunity to connect with other Latinx creatives.

Héctor Vaca Cruz poses with one of the images he exhibits for Los Fotógrafos.

Los Fotógrafos or the Photographers marks the first exhibition of the year by artist collective OBRA, an acronym for Observe, Bridge, Respond, Art. It is also a word that can mean work of art 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 thing is, we promote the culture and arts of the Latinx community,” he said.

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Ernesto Moreno revolves around images of happiness in his photography.

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

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

“People in every country have their views, based on their cultures but also the cultures we were born into in the United States. It influenced the way we see things,” he said.

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Katherine Garcia finds inspiration in her friendships and her heritage as a Mexican-American.

Katherine Garcia, another featured artist, draws on 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 and the places I grew up,” she said. “One of the photos I have here is from my grandparents’ house where my dad grew up until he was five years old before they moved to Mexico City. It’s in Contepec, Michoacan.

The range of perspectives and styles featured in Los Fotógrafos is wide – from traditional Latin American and hometown street food scenes to punk rock performances and Italian futurism-inspired imagery.

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

“With everything that happened during the pandemic — relatives, friends and neighbors who left us — it all disappears when you take pictures,” Moreno said. “That’s the best part.”

Moreno says there are many more North Carolina-based Latino photographers and artists looking for opportunities to showcase their talent. For now, OBRA Collective provides one of these spaces.

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

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