I’d like to share with you all the work and a recent conversation I had with my friend photographer Rodrigo Peña who works in the Palm Springs and Coachella Valley area. Enjoy!
How old were you when you picked up your first camera?
I was 12 years old when my Dad, who was a studio photographer, placed a camera in my hands. I used to help him in the dark room at the age of 4. My first assignment at the age of 12 was to photograph the National Date Festival Parade in Indio back in 1978.
Who had the biggest influence in helping you decide to be a photographer?
My father was always talking about the great Renaissance artists like Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Peter Paul Rubens, Titian and also the French Impressionists. I remember sitting on his lap at a young age and we would look at art books.
He would explain the beauty of light in art. This is what developed my eye and my ability to see and appreciate the light that the masters used in their paintings.
And how did you decide on news photography?
In high school I took a photography class. My teacher approached me at the end of the school year and asked if I’d be interested in joining the high school year book staff.
I joined and was fortunate to document several really cool events like winning CIF championships in both girls basketball and girls volleyball.
I traveled out of town and was there to capture everything including all of the emotion involved with winning such coveted titles.
My photography teacher, Don Hay, paved the way for my career by not only suggesting that I get involved with the year book, but also recommending me to the local newspaper who was looking for a part-time photographer.
I worked at the Indio Daily News newspaper for two years while going to junior college.
How many years did you work at the Desert Sun? The San Bernardino Sun? The Press-Enterprise?
I worked 8.5 years at the Desert Sun in Palm Springs. I worked 5 years at the San Bernardino Sun after the Desert Sun and finally 6 .5 years at The Press-Enterprise. I also enjoyed 2 years part-time at the Indio Daily News and an internship at the Claremont Courier after I attended UCR.
What genre of news photography did you enjoy the most?
I really enjoy black and white documentary photography. I love the mood that only black and white can convey.
Do you feel photojournalism contests always accurately depict what happened at an event?
Some contests are drawn to heavily photoshopped images.
Some photographers are rewarded by staging photos even though they claim the photos are not staged.
But the contests that have a deep meaning and care more about the message than the aesthetic appeal are the ones that I respect the most.
Some contests that look for the different photo don’t always accurately depict what happened at the event.
They might concentrate on a fleeting moment in time where the photographer used their skill to create a unique photo more than document what happened.