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Meet Erika Suarez

Today we’d like to introduce you to Erika Suarez.

So, before we jump into specific questions about what you do, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I began taking photos when I was a high school student in West Palm Beach, FL. I was raised to love the ocean and would spend many days as a child riding my bike to the beach and grabbing pizza slices on the boardwalk. My introduction to photography began while I was a teenager. I used to love watching one of my friend’s direct skateboarding videos. They would often take photos after completing the video portion and I remember being mesmerized by the way a camera could capture movement. I bought my first film camera, a polaroid 420, a few months later. It was $5 at a flea market and relied solely on peel-apart film. After graduating from high school, I bought my first digital camera and routinely began getting up every morning before sunrise. I’d drive along Ocean Boulevard, toward the inlet, and take photos of the crashing waves and red morning sun. I would spend hours trying to learn how to execute long exposures. I did this consistently for about two years. This time period holds a special place in my heart.

When I was 18, I moved to Austin, TX in the winter of 2012 and met my tribe of remarkable friends shortly after. I recognized that the people I was surrounding myself with were so fascinating and breathtakingly unique. I began photographing each of them on a daily basis, and that’s when I saw a project beginning to form. The body of work is entitled “New Guild”, which is the co-op house that my friends and 20 of their roommates shared for a period of about three years. That project changed me in many ways. I felt very free, and was learning so much about photography at the same time. It was the most exhilarating time in my life.

I received my BFA in Photography at the University of North Texas in 2019. It’s incredible to see how far I’ve come just in the last 5 years. I currently have a solo exhibition up at the University of North Texas Union Art Gallery, and I’m working on installing a few more for group shows throughout this month. My current body of work, “Család,” (Family in Hungarian) is about feeling the distance between my family and I since I moved away from home. This is a long-term project, and although I’ve only completed the first leg of it, I’ve been working on it for about a year now. The next part of that project will involve me returning to Hungary to investigate a section of agritourism that my family participates in every winter.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I wish that I could say it has. As a child of immigrant parents, it’s been challenging in many aspects of my family’s life. However, these experiences have taught me a great deal about how to stay resilient and has given me a strong work ethic. I feel very good about where I am today. Three years ago, I was selling my camera for rent money and living in someone’s garage. I’m always working hard and will forever be chasing my bliss, but I am so happy these days. I have a lot of encouragement from friends and family. I also have a loving partner who supports my art dreams and two dogs to snuggle up to on long workdays.

What do you do, what do you specialize in, what are you known for, etc. What are you most proud of? What sets you apart from others?
I’m a fine art photographer. I specialize in a particular style of narrative photography, that I’ve created over time. I enjoy being a participant or voyeur in my photographs. I love to include a lot of visual information in my photographs to serve as clues to the viewer about what exactly each photo could be about. As far as gear – I shoot primarily on a MamiyaRB67, which is a medium format film camera. I think that those listed elements set me apart. That and my patience for being able to scan film into a computer.

Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
Knowing that despite having failures and less successful days, if you want to achieve your goals, you must always keep going. You are so much closer to your dreams if you just keep taking steps forward. Never stop and be ruthless in the way you shoot.

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