Welcome to the ArtWalk Ventura 2015 Artist Spotlight series, where we highlight some on the many talented artists, musicians, photographers, and other creatives participating in this year's event. Today we are featuring Lorenzo DeStefano, a local photographer and filmmaker who's work will be featured at the Ventura County Museum of Art during ArtWalk. DeStefano's exhibit is one of many displaying the intimate connection the Ventura arts community has formed with Cuban artists over the years.
Originally from Honolulu, Hawaii, Lorenzo DeStefano’s first thematic photo series as a teenage street photographer in Honolulu was “Rest Homes Hawai’i”. He continued to freelance in California before switching his attentions from still photography to film. He credits his journeys to Cuba starting in 1993 with reawakening the photographer in him. His traveling exhibition, “La Hora Magica / The Magic Hour – Portraits of a Vanishing Cuba”, has been shown extensively in Cuba as well as in New York, Chicago, London, Havana, Los Angeles, and Vancouver. The entire archive of “La Hora Magica” has been acquired by MOLAA (The Museum of Latin American Art) in Long Beach, California, for their permanent collection.
Lorenzo took a few moments to sit down with us and discuss his past and present work, especially how it pertains to ArtWalk and all of our Cuban exhibits/programs this year. Take a read:
What is your exhibit for ArtWalk?
This year, I will be showing “Cubanos: Island Portraits” at the Museum of Ventura County during ArtWalk. It will showcase 16 black & white photographs I've chosen from the hundreds created during my trips to Cuba. Between 1993 and 1998 I visited the island’s urban centers as well as its lesser known rural provinces, taking intimate portraits of its inhabitants. I believe that through the photos we see fresh glimpses of everyday life, introducing us to people whose faces reaffirm our common humanity.
What inspired you to use photography as a creative outlet?
I was led to photography by intuition and a desire to explore the world within a defined frame of reference, i.e. the photographer’s view.
In your eyes, what does ArtWalk Ventura bring to the community?
This year, especially with a theme of "art without borders", Artwalk Ventura 2015 has the opportunity to introduce visiting artists to our community and vice versa, thereby enriching both.
What is your favorite memory from past ArtWalk events?
Every year, I think ArtWalk really inspires a sense of community & exploration. This has been very important in encouraging the evolution of Ventura from a thrift store beach town to a vibrant center of art & culture.
What are you looking forward to this year?
This year, I'm looking forward to the all of the Cuban events on the lineup, especially the Havana To Ventura mural project, the opening day "Conversations on Cuba" breakfast seminar at the Museum, and the screening of "Unfinished Spaces", the closing night film.
As a photographer/videographer, what do you look for that "perfect shot"?
Moving beyond divisive politics and the limitations of language, these portraits reflect my ongoing search for moments when the lens reveals people’s lives and their gaze meets mine.
How do you define your creative process?
It varies, but particularly for the Cubanos: Island Portraits photos I was traversing Cuba’s urban centers as well as its lesser known rural provinces, and had the chance to capture rare photos of these island people. I found that the work reaffirms our common humanity by opening windows on everyday life.
If you weren't a photographer, what type of artist would you be?
When not taking photos, I also work extensively in film, assuming a number of different roles- from writing to directing and more. It's a natural switch going from one to the other.
What upcoming projects are you most excited about?
I'm very excited about the acquisition by MOLAA (Museum of Latin American Art) in Long Beach, California, of my entire archive of hundreds of photographs, negatives & proofs of Cuba, for their permanent collection, and the eventual exhibition and book project. There are also the film/theater projects I'm looking forward to as well:
-Producer/director of the currently filming documentary feature, “Hearing is Believing” (www.rachelflowersfilm.com), about the multi-talented 21 year-old instrumentalist and composer Rachel Flowers, a 2016 release.
-Writer/producer of “Serpentine”, an urban thriller set in India and London, co-produced by StrongArm Films, London. -Writer/director of “Hypergraphia” (www.hypergraphiafilm.com), based on “The Inman Diary”, published by Harvard University Press. Producer/Director of Los Zafiros – Music From The Edge Of Time”(www.loszafirosfilm.com), an award-winning music feature about the Beatles of 1960s Cuba.
-Producer/director/editor of the acclaimed PBS feature documentary “Talmage Farlow” (www.talfarlowfilm.com), a portrait of the great American jazz guitarist.
-Playwright/director of“Shipment Day”, the story of my cousin, Olivia Robello Breitha, a teenage girl diagnosed with leprosy in 1930s Honolulu. Premiering this summer at the Road Theatre Company in L.A.
How else are you involved in the Ventura/805 community?
I'm also the founder and director of the Ventura Film Society (www.venturafilosociety.com), currently in our 7th season of bringing compelling films and filmmakers to the Museum of Ventura County and other downtown venues. Our motto is "we bring people together in the dark."
Where do you want your work to take you in the next year?
Continuing to explore the gap between peoples and the expression of unity through form, content, and expression that can unite rather than divide.