Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene: Steph Segarra

With the internet being so easy to access, it has become easier for independent artists to find an audience and let their work be known. As a result, a variety of movements, collectives, and scenes have found a way to pave their path. The independent art scene in Puerto Rico is no different. Recently, many artists from a variety of disciplines have found platforms that have made it easier for them to share their work. In addition, small businesses such as Electroshock in Santurce and Rio Piedras, bars like Off The Wall in Mayaguez, and libraries like La Casita Books and Gifts in Aguadilla have provided up-and-coming artists a space to display their talents. “Puerto Rican Women Killing It in the Independent Art Scene” is a series of  interviews that provides a glimpse at some of the women who have recently gained recognition in the art scene. Though the artists are asked similar questions, some are asked queries surrounding their work, specifically.


Steph Segarra is a photographer, filmmaker and art director.



What got you into photography?

Early in my teens I was very interested in cinematography. I went to the UPR in Rio Piedras to study Communications so that I could work in the movie industry. When I took the photography class required by the concentration, I fell in love with the medium and immediacy of the product.



How did you develop your style?

It was a slow process for me. I remember looking at fashion magazines since I was a young kid and I later developed an obsession with 1990s aesthetic. That’s when I started experimenting with analog photography. I’m a super nostalgic person and think it reflects in my images. I think that if you try different things and do your own thing you will inevitably find your voice.



How has it evolved through the years?

I started being more of a concept before technique kind of person, after a while I guess I got more demanding with the finished product but sometimes that’s not good because the emotion and beauty of the moment can be lost. I guess that’s why I love film photography because it forces me to be in the moment and I can produce something more pure.



What are some of your influences and inspirations?

My favorite filmmaker is Wong Kar Wai; I love everything about his movies. The stories are mostly told from a memory perspective. For example, sometimes you idealize a certain moment. I feel he captures that well.  I also love the way he portrays the city and its colors. I love all types of photography and learning about history. I am currently doing research on Puerto Rico’s forgotten photography history. I am very interested in learning more about our visual culture and how the photograph can not only tell a story about a person or a brand but about a moment in history.



Is there any other form of art you wish to pursue? If so, what field and why?

Maybe not another form of art but definitely make more videos. It’s been a dream of mine since I was young watching MTV and VH1 during the morning. Music videos can tell stories in such a short amount of time, I think they have the ability of making you feel curiosity about certain types of genres or subcultures you wouldn’t necessarily be interested in.



What do you think about the current state of the arts in Puerto Rico?

Puerto Rico is going through a very tough time economically and politically. We are at the risk of our future being determined by the government. The arts in Puerto Rico are difficult at the same time because the market is very small and there’s a lot of competition. Either way, there is so much talent and usually in the darkest moments art flourishes. After the hurricane, people were so shook by the reality it motivated everyone to create. We have gained so much knowledge and suffering from this situation, it’s like fuel for creativity. The problem is artists don’t have the income necessary to produce and most times that means they have to relocate. Thus, impulsing the inevitable exodus that’s been happening forever.



What do you think about the current state of the independent scene in Puerto Rico?

The independent scene in Puerto Rico is so exciting. There’s music, from all types of genres. Photography in all its forms, an insane illustration scene. I think we have the potential of being as competitive market wise as other great cities. Most of my friends are creators, we usually stick together. It’s like a big family and we support and complement each other in many ways.



If a young girl came up to you and said she wanted to be an artist, what would be your advice for her?

Never stop creating. I know you’ve read this in at least ten inspirational instagrams and t-shirts but it’s actually very true. There was a moment after college when I stopped photographing and I’m so happy it didn't win me over. I give thanks to my boyfriend because he pushed me to continue doing it. It’s such an important part of my life. I learn so much through photography; about people, culture, history, other countries, other perspectives, respect. You just have to find what you’re passionate about and just flow with it.



What is your biggest goal right now?

My biggest goal right now is to create something I’m proud of. Every day there’s a new goal. Traveling is definitely one of those. That and finally publishing some printed works I have ready and haven’t been able to.


What do you seek to achieve with work?

It used to be about creating something aesthetically pleasing but more and more I’ve learned the responsibility that falls on my shoulders as a media creator. I have the ability to change perspectives and gazes that have been put in place for decades. I want to force myself to create something bigger than me. It’s a process.


All of the pictures in this article were provided by Steph Segarra