Embark on a visual journey across diverse cultures through the lens of photographer Luis Abel Espino Arvizu. View more of his portfolio on his website.
I was born in Mexico, and at a very early age brought to the U.S. to live my life here. The traditions of my native culture were strong with my parents, so they were showcased in front of me every day. As I got older, I got to live in two different worlds: the white American one in school and the Mexican liveliness at home.
I saw many ethnic kids, including my brother, become embarrassed about their native culture. They would hide their language, food, attire, etc. and allow another culture to overshadow their own. As a kid, I curiously observed these occurrences. But I didn’t think about it too much at the time, until I grew older.
As I grew in age, I became infatuated by Chinese and Japanese cultures. I started imitating their way of being. At age 12, my family and I went to a Chinese restaurant and a broken film camera was left behind at the restaurant. It didn’t work, but I was fascinated when I looked through the viewfinder and heard the sound of the shutter after every click. I took it home and it became my new eye.
My family saw how much I enjoyed it and bought me my first camera, specifically a compact digital camera. I took it everywhere with me. But my main subjects didn’t have anything to do with culture and diversity at this time. It was nature and beautiful objects. And sometimes fish.
When I was 16, my brother bought me my first DSLR. I marveled at the power this camera held, the way it could make time and space timeless. I started taking more pictures of people, and then I had friends ask me to photograph them.
In due time, I started looking into it as a professional career. I started small by taking pictures of close family and friends. Once I was sure this is what I wanted to pursue, I saved $5,000, and went to Kroger to buy $5,000 worth of Amazon gift cards. I bought a Canon 5d Mark I and lenses on Amazon, while getting free gas for two months with the fuel points.
I became more fascinated by culture and diversity as I interacted with more people from different walks of life. And I noticed how at that time (about 14 years ago) virtually no one spoke of culture or appreciated diversity. I still saw people from different countries being embarrassed of their own. It infuriated me and caused me sadness. This inspired me to capture the best pictures I could in order to showcase their beauty.
I wasn’t very good at marketing (and still struggle with it) so I began printing fliers and going to shops. At a Vietnamese nail salon where I dropped some off, I had a small chat with the clerk. A Vietnamese customer overheard and excitedly asked if I was a wedding photographer. I said I was, and it became the initiation to photograph culture and diversity professionally.
Luis Abel Espino Arvizu invites you to follow him on Instagram.
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