Who Art Miami 2020: Diana Espin by Ingrid Rocha

Artist Quote

“I always plan and imagine my photos prior to taking them; however, once I go to do my work nature decides to provide something totally different. Even if you plan and visualize your photos, it’ll never go the way you thought it would. You must welcome and appreciate outside forces that alter the finished product. Adaptability is essential in photography.”

Diana Espín

Student Biography

Hello, my name is Ingrid Rocha and I am a pre-med student at Florida International University. My majors are in both Biological Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies, and my minors are in Portuguese and Chemistry. I am pursuing these degrees in order to prepare for the difficult road to medical school. I am unsure of which area of study I will choose once I become a doctor, however I am interested in surgical specialties. Although I was born in Miami I moved away as a young child and did not get to grow up enjoying the many sights Miami has to offer. As a result, I decided to immerse myself in the culture by partaking in the Art Society Conflict class with the hope of broadening my horizons and becoming a more well-rounded individual.

Who is Diana Espin?

Portrait of Diana Espín by Roberto Mata at the Bakehouse Art Complex

Diana Espín Fernandez was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. The majority of her family is originally from Spain; thus, she has a strong Spanish background. Espín comes from a family passionate about photography which is undoubtedly why she took interest in the subject matter. Interestingly enough, Espín did not originally pursue photography as a career. She obtained an undergraduate degree majoring in finance and business administration in Venezuela.

Education

Hollywood Beach by Diana Espín

It should be noted that in Venezuela, like many south American countries, the education system is quite different. Immediately after graduating high school you go straight into a defined career, contrary to the United States’ system in which many individuals choose to get a master’s degree. As such, Diana Espín immigrated to the United States and obtained a master’s degree from New York University (NYU) is business administration (MBA) ten years ago. This was around the time in which she started to become more passionate about photography. Photography by Diana Espín

When applying to NYU Espín was given the freedom to submit a piece of her choice. She stated that “when [she] applied for the MBA [she] did a little photographic essay with values and crazy stuff.” This indicates the official start of her interest in photography. She “started doing photography as a hobby on the side while [she] was working on [her] master’s degree” in order to manage the heavy workload and stress. “During every class event that was happening at the university [Espín] was carrying the camera around: photographing, donating pictures to the university, and practicing portraits.”

Brickell Gótica Corrected by Diana Espín

Diana Espín, after graduating from NYU, originally moved to Miami, then Boston, then finally back to Miami once more. Her decision to remain in Miami was primarily due to a large portion of her family living here. Espín stated that she “absolutely hated” her time in Boston, that it was a “very bad time” in her life. She had even stopped doing photography while she was there, so needless to say it was a very difficult and trying time for her. Once in Miami she “worked as a general consultant for a few years until [she] finally got [her] green card and quit! [She] was done with that type of work.” Espín decided it was finally time for her to focus on her true passion, photography. She had become quite enraptured with Miami’s environment. Espín is especially passionate about using natural light in her photos, a practice that became commonplace once moving to Miami. Relocating to Miami began a growth period for her because she was at the liberty to test out many different techniques. She chased wild storms simply to try and play with how the clouds would look in her photos.

Key Figures

Diana Espín has had a wide range of impactful people in her life. One of them is father who gave her the first camera she’s ever had. Another key figure in her life is Pedro, her partner. They met three and a half years ago when she first returned to Miami from Boston and decided to take a photography class. She had realized that she was “stuck” in her photography work and wanted to learn more techniques. Her primary concerns were how to use artificial light and if her photography made sense to her audience, whether or not she was getting her point across.
Photography by Diana Espín

The photography class she decided to take was in the Bakehouse Art Complex. Espín called it a “boutique school” because it is so small. “It was a very important photography school back in Venezuela where Pedro used to teach twelve years ago, he was from the film times. This school was big there, it was there that you went to start photography in Venezuela.” Upon finding out about the classes being offered at this “boutique school” at Bakehouse she took about three classes before a class about lighting was offered. The class was taught by her now-partner Pedro, whom she calls an artificial lighting genius. Espín believes that he is a very impactful influence on her photography because he has taught her so many different techniques which have become central in her photography pieces.

Padres by Diana Espín

These classes at the Bakehouse Art Complex became quite impactful for Espín. The school is very documentary-photojournalism style which was a new experience for her. Espín “loved it, all the assignments and homework gave [her] answers to a lot of work [she] struggled with in the past.” It also showed her that she “had a lot of rules” she had created and that it was okay to break out of the mold she had made herself. She also made sure to note the photographers who are most influential to her, Ansel Adams and Tim Flach. Tim Flach is especially influential on Espín because she has done projects photographing animals. Similarly, Tim Flach is a portrait artist who works with endangered species, dogs, and other animals.

Personal Identity

Fishing in the dirt by Diana Espín

When Diana Espín was about fifteen years old her father gave her her very first camera, “a little Olympus with a roll of film.” He gave her this camera because she was going to Canada during the summer to take an English course. Although this was the first camera Espín owned, it was hardly what inspired her to become a photographer. During her first trimester at NYU Espín traveled back home to Caracas, Venezuela. During this trip she became aware of just how central photography was in her life. Her father, as well as grandfather, both enjoyed photography and were always documenting their lives through their cameras. She “noticed how much they were influencing [her] because they were documenting all of [their] trips.” During her last trip back home in 2007 Espín came across a box filled with “cameras, lenses, you name it.” Because her father was no longer using these cameras, she took all the equipment. Luckily enough, Espín had a friend, a professional photographer, who was also in Venezuela at the time. This friend was kind enough to teach Espín her first steps on how to photograph. She is now working on a project in which she is trying to recover all the photographs from her father’s cameras that she took during her last trip back home in Venezuela.   

Cultural Identity

Caminos by Diana Espín

Photography, for Diana Espín, is about traveling. “It was about bringing back, not the boring typical world, but getting lost in the wild.” Espín’s grandmother was always an advocate for her to go on these “crazy” adventures. She was always supportive and always told her “you should go!” Espín has a thirst to find and go to places that people do not usually travel to. She has gone to Alaska twice, and plans on going once more. While she worked on her MBA Espín also went on trips to the Amazon, India, Argentina, and Africa.  She loves working with landscapes which is why she travels to so many different places. She loves to go into wild areas and seek out different landscapes that people usually do not get the chance to see. This influence comes from her background in Venezuela which has so many beautiful landscapes that many people are unaware of.

Despite Venezuela being the root of her photographic identity, she has not been back to Venezuela in years. She states that this is because she wants to “open her mind, culture-wise.” She is aware that these beautiful locations are not only in her little piece of Venezuela, they are scattered all over the world. Essentially, Espín is heavily influenced by her sense of adventure, her yearning to travel to virtually unknown locations. Venezuela is where her art first started; however, she has grown beyond her home country and is influenced by wonders across the globe.
Photography by Diana Espín

Espín actively tries to avoid getting too “hooked to a moment that makes it hard to see outside your own borders.” Essentially, Espín is actively trying to broaden her horizons beyond her home country to avoid getting stuck in one location, which would be contrary to her sense of adventure.

Art lately is so varied that it is important to keep evolving as society does. People nowadays have been more focused on traveling, seeing the world, and experiencing new things compared to the older generation that was more focused on their livelihoods. It is an essential part of every artist’s career to grow and bring new influences into their work. This is done by broadening your horizons, expanding your knowledge and experiences. This allows the artist to bring more representation and personality to their pieces, making the art come alive with a background in culture. For Diana Espín in particular, this is done through traveling.

Subject of Artwork

Atardecer con Rainier by Diana Espín at Mirror Lake, Mt Rainier National Park, WA

Diana Espín is a photographer, so naturally she uses a digital camera for most of her work; however, lately she has been experimenting with film. Scanners and a computer are also important tools in photography. Another tool some photographers use is the computer editorial program Adobe Photoshop. Espín does not usually work with Photoshop, but she is currently taking a class on it which may allow her to begin using it on her photos in the future. The most important tool to Espín, besides her camera, is her large eleven-color plotter which she uses to print her photos. For Espín it is essential to have a printer because she likes to have her photos physically, to get them out of the cameras and computers and be able to appreciate them in their physical form. A plotter is especially important for Espín because she creates panoramic photographs. On the computer these photos are all taken individually, so in order to truly appreciate the photos they must be printed altogether, side-by-side, creating the panorama. When printing she considers how the photos will look on the wall. This involves considering whether or not the photos should be printed on a shiny, glossy, or matte finish paper, as well as what frame would best compliment the photo in question.

The root of why Diana Espín decided to become a landscape photographer originates in her visit to South America, the Amazon in particular. She was deeply moved by the landscapes she saw during her travels, however, at the time she was still just beginning her experience in professional photography. Upon returning home she adopted the idea that she would become proficient at photography and then return to capture images of the Amazon in its true glory.
Photography by Diana Espín

Espín’s work revolves around this story because everywhere she travels, she takes photo in order to share unknown locations with others. Her prime reason for becoming a landscape photographer was to expand horizons and go to “crazy” places. It should be noted that another reason that Espín takes photography is to advocate for different causes. One of these causes is to promote adoption of shelter animals.

Diana Espín is particularly successful in representing her subject matter. Her landscape photography gives people a view of the world beyond their everyday lives, inspiring people to travel more. Society has adopted the notion of expanding their knowledge beyond their jobs and it is providing the world with a more well-rounded and knowledgeable future generation.  In the case of the shelter animals, it can easily be claimed that her work is just as successful. Society nowadays is much more likely to adopt animals than they were just a few years ago. Espín believes that a good photograph that shows the dog’s true personality goes a long way in providing for these friendly animals a chance of finding a new home.

Formal Elements

The Wall by Diana Espín at The Capitan’s Wall, Yosemite National Park, CA

Diana Espín uses the formal elements, light, lines, texture, and color in order of decreasing priority. The formal element she uses the most is light. She is very passionate “about natural light and hunting the moment the light is going to be amazing.” Although she does use artificial light as well, Espín much prefers using natural light and sunlight for her photography. The second formal element Espín considers when creating her photos is lines. She is “always hunting lines, nonstop.” She uses them because, being a landscape photographer, lines are everywhere. Horizons, trees, mountains, these all incorporate lines which are naturally found everywhere in nature and our daily lives. She also uses a lot of edges in her photos, something both she and her partner Pedro are both passionate about. Espín contends that the use of lines, specifically edges, can totally transform the perspective of a photograph.

Deshielo by Diana Espín at Denali National Park, AK

The third formal element Espín uses is texture. In her landscape work Espín likes to find elements, such as mountains, clouds, and trees that “have a lot going on.” For example, during her trips to Alaska she was thrilled with the textures found in glacier ice and sand-water because of how out of the ordinary these natural textures were. The formal element color is also very important to Espín. Although she enjoys black-and-white photography, all of her work is done primarily in color. If need be, she will then edit her photograph and change it to black-and-white. Espín does so if she believes there is too much information happening within the photograph, be it due to lines or texture, and that a black-and-white photo is better suited. She also changes the coloring depending on what she is trying to convey to her audience through the photograph.

Exhibition and Project History

Photography by Diana Espín

Diana Espín currently has an exhibition on display on the walls of the Bakehouse Art Complex called The space in between. This exhibition features works by Rosie Marie Cromwell, Diana Espín, Mateo Serna Zapata, and Clara Toro. “The space in between features the work of four photographers, in residence at Bakehouse, who explore the production of images through stories allied with  geography: an abandoned house down Route 66, a vast mountain of fresh snow in Alaska, the abstracted curve of the dancer’s body, and the rubble of a dilapidated building in La Habana…” (On View).

Photography by Diana Espín

Diana Espín also has public art displayed at VCA Animal Hospitals. “The objective of this work was to promote adoption and to prove that any rescue can be a beautiful pet.” She purposefully put these photos in places that people pay for dogs, such as vet offices, to represent and advocate for adoption. Another exhibition she has is in Brickell, Miami to promote her work. She does this in order to gain clients that want their pets’ photos taken. This helps fund the volunteer work that Espín does, such as the work done for shelter animals. She stated that this project was done simply to convey that these animals are just as good as those people buy. The photos taken by the shelter do nothing to display the dog’s personality, they just show scared animals in cages. That is why Espín took her time calming the dogs down, then trying to compose a good photograph.

Although this work was very meaningful to her, it was also emotionally tolling. Espín would spend days working with the dogs to get a good photograph only to be told a week later that they had been euthanized. It is a heartbreaking situation, and as a result she no longer volunteers there. Despite this, she has started working on another project. This year there will be elections and Miami-Dade once again has the chance to flip the law that bans pitbulls, a law that has been active since 1989.
Photography by Diana Espín.

Another project of great importance to Diana Espín involves Goodwill South Florida. Goodwill is known for selling clothing and other items at greatly reduced prices; however, they have another mission that is not quite as well-known. They provide jobs for a variety of special-needs people, such as individuals with Down syndrome or the visually impaired. Their mission is to train them and prepare them for work by either hiring them or helping them find a job. Goodwill has a factory in Allapattah, Miami where they manufacture American flags and army uniforms. Everyone who works at this factory is special needs. Espín stated that “it is a beautiful company, very Latin. They over-protect their employees” and have many celebrations, such as Mother’s Day parties. One project Espín did was in partnership with a documentary-style photographer to create a calendar for Goodwill. For the last three years Diana Espín and her partner Pedro have been working for Goodwill South Florida to take portraits of their achievers of the year. Every year a female and a male individual are picked for a variety of reasons, such as fifteen years of employment at the factory. This project is important to Espín because it brings attention to the virtuous work Goodwill is doing by employing individuals with special needs, a practice that should be made commonplace across America.

Student Perspective

the longest sunset by Diana Espín at Around Denali National Park, AK

My experience working with Diana Espín was extremely rewarding. I can easily say that Espín is now a role model for me. Her work advocating for special needs employment and homes for shelter animals are two social issues I hold close to my heart. The fact that she uses her skill in photography to try and combat these issues is quite impactful. I especially hope to see the completed project which advocates for Miami to lift the pitbull ban. I find it heartbreaking that these animals are denied a place in shelters, and usually euthanized, simply because of a predisposed notion that they are not friendly.

I have also learned from Diana Espín that, no matter your age, you may become a photographer. I was under the impression that you had to be carrying a camera from the age of three to become a successful photographer, but she has shown me otherwise. Her work is impactful and meaningful despite the fact that photography was not her original career path. I have learned that it’s okay to stray from the route that you created and enjoy life. After getting to know Diana Espín I now feel confident that I can pursue a hobby I have always been interested in, that being photography.

Works Cited

Espín Fernandez, Diana. “ESPIN.” Diana Espin, http://www.dianaespin.com/.

“On View.” BAC, http://www.bacfl.org/on-view.

*All information was obtained from an interview conducted with Diana Espín.
*All photography belongs to Diana Espín with the exclusion of the photo under “Student Biography” and “Who is Diana Espín”.
Photography was obtained from the references above or courtesy of Diana Espín.

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