The main idea behind the creation of Coquíchulo Images was one of artistic support of my own Latino community. I was a social worker and teacher working with young people with severe problems (emotional, academic, social, and psychological) for over 15 years. Before I decided to pursue my artistic endeavors—photography, puppetry, and body art—I devoted myself and my work to help foster creativity and success within communities of color.
Although I’m a full-time artist, I have never left my community behind. I’m still a teacher and social worker at heart. Many of my exhibits, editorials, performances, shows and events include former students and community members either as models, participants, workers or contributors. I give much credence to the saying, “Each one, teach one.”
I will say that my greatest work as an artist has been while working as a teacher. No job molds, shapes, creates, supports, directs, inspires and enables young people more than that of being a good and caring teacher.
I made it a point to smile often as a teacher and as a social worker. I make it a point now to have fun while doing a shoot. Laughter goes far. At the end of the day, it’s not just a great shot that makes me smile: it’s looking back at the fun all of us had while creating it.
Models like my shoots because they’re fun. We talk; we laugh; we share. I invite them and expect them to contribute to the work with their own ideas. The process is just as important as the product. If a person feels that s/he is a part of something and has a stake in it, the product will reflect this. However, I am also very clear about ground rules. I have detailed releases and I review all material prior to starting any shoot. Much of my work could be considered provocative, so I don’t want anyone not knowing exactly what s/he is getting into and what the expected outcomes are.
Unfortunately, it is exceedingly difficult for Latino models of color to make it in the industry, but I’m hoping with continued support, we can change this. I let young people know that they have to work ten times as hard just to get to the door. With the numbers of Latinos on the rise and the industry finally recognizing our buying power, hopefully, we can start portraying more varied roles and, finally, earning something commensurate with our efforts.
I love my work. I still work with young people in many capacities, but I’m able now to help young Latinos realize their artistic visions. Recently, my art photography has drawn me more into fashion and I’ve begun mentoring aspiring Latino models and reaching out to designers, stylists, makeup artists and other artists of color in hopes of getting our voices heard and our vision realized.
We may have struggled, but we’re finally here. It’s more important to know where you stand and where you are going than to worry about what you didn’t get or what you didn’t have.
For more information on the artist or the models, please contact Ricardo Muñiz at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.myspace.com/coquichuloimages or 917 623 7153. You may also visit Ricardo’s website at http://ricardomuniz.solomodels.com.