Meet Thalia Gochez, the Latinx Photographer Using Her Lens to Uplift Her Community
By Jenilee De La Fuente
Meet Thalia Gochez, a film photographer hailing from Los Angeles with a Mexican-Salvadorian upbringing. Much like many other children of immigrants, Gochez was once shy about her heritage. She recounts memories of her parents speaking thick accented English while working at the grocery store cash register. She has come to love and be proud of her background and culture. Gochez has been living in San Francisco since she was 18, embracing her brown-ness, and empowering her community through photography.
Gochez shoots womxn of color to give them a creative sanctuary to feel beautiful despite mainstream America’s beauty standards. She also aims to highlight the origins of cultures and beauty traditions, since celebrities often take the features of womxn of color and adopt it as their own without credit (a la the Kardashians).
A self-proclaimed perfectionist (similar to her Virgo sis, Beyoncé), Gochez aspires to shoot the perfect image of her subjects that also portrays their identity. In the past year, she has taken on amazing projects like Hermanas de Sangre and Nike’s ALL FOR 1 Exhibit that truly align with her mission for Latinx representation.
We spoke with Gochez about the Bay Area’s creative community, her upcoming projects, and what creative success means to her.
Jenilee: What does the creative community in the Bay Area look like to you?
Thalia: Unique and vibrant! There is so much talent and inspiration here! The Bay Area has really given me a playground to explore and express my creativity. I’m newly apart of an art collective called Levanguard that started in Oakland/Berkeley in 2015. It’s a group of mainly QPOC, POC, artists, musicians, and producers that throw parties, live concerts and art shows. The collective has expanded to different cities too like New Orleans, San Diego, and New York! As a Bay Area transplant, Le Vanguard really believed in the work I was doing and has shown me nothing but love and support. I’m grateful.
What do you think makes the Bay Area different from other urban cities like LA and New York in the creative industry?
The Bay area has its own identity, its own culture, its own language. There is no other place like it! This unique force makes for a different recipe and the creative work produced here reflects that.
Historically a lot of Bay Area creatives tend to feel like they need to move to LA or New York to make it and be successful in their craft. What are your thoughts?
What makes you successful is your unique voice and vision. I’m still in the early stages of my creative career and have so much to learn. However, opportunities come to me not because of where I am geographically, but the work I’m doing and what it’s saying. Find your signature style and devote yourself to it. Opportunities will come the more you perfect your craft and vision. Staying true to my style of work is worth more than a paycheck or clout. I’ve practiced this belief so much that when something is not in alignment creatively I feel anxious. Anxiety can be used as a great tool and reminder to tap within yourself and realign.
Do you have any projects in the works that will either express something politically within Latinx culture?
The next personal project I’m doing is about machismo, the Latinx self-identifying man and his role in society [and] the limited space he has to explore his emotional, creative, and sexual experiences. Naturally, I shoot WOC and I’ve been reflecting on why which has lead me to this project. I’m digging deep and understanding how machismo has affected my life and relationship with brown men. That overtly aggressive masculine pride is something many brown womxn were raised around, and this project is about challenging those toxic gender roles in a positive and authentic way.
For women of color who are trying to get into photography or who are trying to tell stories of their community, what advice would you give them?
Shoot as much as possible- find your vision and voice. No class or person can teach you that but you.The more you shoot the more you’ll know how to move with your camera, which naturally will help build your skills and confidence. Also, when documenting members in the community, it’s important for it to be consensual and an equal exchange. There can be such a strong power gap between photographer and subject, which is something I’m really striving to bridge. I have a strong moral code and deeply care about the people in front of my camera.
What does success look like to you?
Success to me has always been about visual representation and inspiring the little brown kid growing up behind me! It’s also about personal and creative growth + freedom! As a woman of color creative, I often struggle with feeling like I belong in an industry that historical has given us little space to create. But here I am demanding creative space and control. I know the more I stay true to my vision and style, the stronger I’ll get, which will naturally breed new opportunities.