Finding fresh angles on familiar scenes is one of the strengths of great photographers. But where do they find their inspiration? For CCI alumnus Moises Gomez, ten months in the United States ignited his idea for a photo project about his hometown of Valledupar, Colombia.
Moises studied media at Northern Virginia Community College – Annandale during the 2016-17 CCI year. His coursework included five photography and video production courses, and he interned with professional photographer Lloyd Wolf. He also frequently contributed photos to the college’s newspaper and arts magazines. All of those experiences not only expanded his technical skills with the camera; they helped him to see the world – and his hometown – differently.
“When I was in D.C. I always asked myself why that city was so special, what things were unique about it, and while I was discovering or answering those questions I realized that my city had potential and that it was undiscovered,” Moises said. “I feel that being out of my city made me realize that there are so many special things that can make a city unique and that I while I was living here I missed.” After returning to Colombia, Moises entered a public grant competition and was awarded $3,000 to start a photojournalism project, “Valledupar Today,” that would showcase the people, stories, architecture, and culture of Valledupar through photos.
From idea to execution, many lessons and connections from the CCI Program helped Moises as he pursued the project. His hands-on training in developing projects, printing photos, and crafting an artist statement prepared him to do all of those tasks independently; his internship adviser, Lloyd Wolf, continued to serve as a mentor from afar; and his networking skills enabled him to find the right people to bring his photos to a public audience. Last fall, Moises worked with curator Jorge Serrano to mount an exhibition of photographs from the “Valledupar Today” series. The process involved figuring out a budget, selecting photos, choosing the appropriate sizes, finding a gallery space, and more. When the exhibition, “Convergent Realities,” launched on Oct. 17, 2018, about 100 people attended the opening reception. The exhibition title, Moises said, referred to the multiple experiences that co-exist in the space of one photo – from the actual events depicted, to the photographer’s role in shaping the scene, to the meaning the viewer brings to the image.
The photos in the exhibition portrayed Colombians dancing, biking, and working. They also depicted churches, monuments, and government buildings, along with more natural landscapes in Valledupar. One of Moises’ favorite images, titled “Everydayness,” features a tableau of people hanging out on a colorful street. “It shows how people interact in the daily basis, the way the dress, what they eat, how they work and more,” Moises explained.
Discussing the exhibition over, he said: “I think Realidades Convergentes was one of its kind. To me the city indeed is not used to this kind of event where you go to see photos on a wall, but I think it was an amazing exercise and first try,” Moises said. “People were interested in knowing more about me and the city, so I think it was worthy.”
The “Valledupar Today” project and “Convergent Realities” exhibition are just two of Moises’ accomplishments since returning to Colombia. In August 2017 his photos “Out of sight, out of mind” and “Fighting for a dream” were both selected as finalists for the International Labor Organization’s photo contest. The theme for the contest was Safe Youth at Work. Moises traveled to Singapore to attend the awards ceremony, where he also had the opportunity to discuss working conditions for youth in Colombia. In the summer of 2018, he was the sole Colombian selected to attend the British Council’s Future News Worldwide conference, which brought a global network of 100 motivated young journalists to the Scottish Parliament for intensive media training with high-profile reporters, editors, and broadcasters.
Moises said his U.S. exchange experience was an invaluable step in his journey as a photographer and young professional: “CCI gave me tools to create new things, and also it helped me to believe in myself. I am really happy because CCI was that platform that keeps helping me to achieve my goals.”