Mi Hermana: A Conversation with Photographer Alicia Vega
Q: Hi Alicia, thank you for sharing your film photography series Mi Hermana for our Identity issue. We would love to hear more about the concept for this set; What was your inspiration?
A: The concept for this series was born out of the panic I felt from the Mexican-American community after Trump was elected President. He ran and won with his "build a wall," keep immigrants out campaign. At the time, ICE agents were rounding up suspected immigrants in Austin, children were crying and terrified their parents were going to be deported, and immigrant parents were withholding their children from school out of fear of detainment. Austinites protested at the Capitol and our Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez advised local jailers NOT to comply with ICE agents. Then, the house passed Senate bill 4- a sanctuary cities ban. It's a law that imposes harsh penalties on local governments and officials who restrict when police officers can inquire about a persons’ immigration status, and on county jails that don’t cooperate with ICE agent requests.
So, in the midst of all this madness, it got me thinking about what it is to be a first generation American in an immigrant family. I'm Puerto Rican - my Grandmother did not need to worry about deportation but she was discriminated against nonetheless. A lot of Latinos growing up in the states were encouraged to "be more American" by our immigrant parents and grandparents, out of fear of being targeted. As a result, so many of us grew up only speaking English, losing our native tongue and culture over generations. It was this duality that inspired me for this editorial series.
Q: Female relationships are often presented as "catty" or competitive, especially among women of color. We love how this editorial speaks to sisterhood and friendship and are curious to learn more about how women and femininity became your subject.
A: I started my photography career in the most inherently feminine way possible- photographing home births. I gave birth to my own son at home, with three midwives present. The whole experience was incredibly empowering and permanently changed me. I felt such a sense of camaraderie amongst women after that. It was like, "we deliver the babies, we raise the children, we run the world." I didn't want to be pushed around and told how to live my life by men anymore. I mean, I never was subservient to begin with. It gets me into trouble from time to time. Unfortunately, we still live in a patriarchal society that is threatened by strong women, and especially strong women of color. Anyway, I started by documenting home births, then I was hired to make maternity portraits and that eventually led to photographing models and musicians.
Q: How do you perceive social media's intersection with photography? Do you feel it is mostly positive or negative?
A: I don't know, I have mixed feelings about it. I think there are both positive and negative aspects about creating and tending to an online persona. My photo work is mostly conceptual, so I don't feel that it negatively affects my business. I mean, I hope no one out there is looking at my posts thinking, "I can just create that on my iPhone for free."
Q: Any upcoming projects you're working on?
© Alicia Vega 2018