We had the good fortune of connecting with Afonso Salcedo and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Afonso, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
This is actually an interesting question for me. Growing up, I always saw myself as an artist. I carried a camera with me at all times, and was constantly photographing and filming everything. I would even tell my parents I wanted to be a painter at times. Figuring out how to create these images, video or photos, and present them in a way that would tell a story was always a natural aspect of who I was as a child. It was my escape. It was just natural to me, in a time where not much of the world around me made sense. But I always carried this internal stigma within me, where I never really believed that I could be a professional artist and live a fully creative life. I ended up studying Computer Science since I always loved technology too, doing both an undergrad and a masters degree studying computer engineering and science. It was only once I finished my masters that I had an awakening while waiting for an important consultancy job interview in London. I was sitting in this empty desolate room, and I knew deep down that if I stayed in that same path I wouldn’t be fulfilling a life of personal truth. That job wasn’t me. So I got up, I apologized, and I never actually interviewed for that job. That was the moment that changed my whole life, where I came out to myself as an artist, and at that instant I promised myself that I would always strive to stay truthful to my own being no matter what.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I have always spent my career focusing on both photography and film. As an artist, it’s hard for be to label myself inside a particular box, but most of my work has always been around the visual arts and around humanity. I’m usually collaborating on films such as Toy Story 3, Ratatouille, Wall-E or Frozen 2, or on assignment doing documentary photojournalism in Haiti, covering the BLM movement in LA or the COVID pandemic in our communities. I grew up obsessed with social documentary photography and photojournalism, with photographers such as Sebastião Salgado, and I believe in the power of photographs to help share stories of our own humanity. I love being immersed in a community or foreign country, on assignment or as a personal project, covering and documenting stories of our human vulnerabilities. As any artist can confirm it’s never easy being an artist. It’s a nonstop incredible amount of work to understand how to create the opportunities that allow me to get more assignments and paid work, getting my name out there known as a trusted source of quality images, and understanding how to best counteract how much photography has been devalued over the years. Fortunately, since I love it so much I never stop. My work in films at Pixar or Disney provide stability over a few months that allows me then to invest more time creatively and financially to do my passions of photojournalism and portraiture. Living in a place like Los Angeles and California doesn’t make it any easier with the expensive costs of living, and the current pandemic only complicates things even further. It’s a constant juggle and learning experience. But I love every minute of it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I’m actually an avid outdoors and nature explorer loving hiking and camping and being in the backcountry, so I am positive I would at least try to show some of the amazing nature LA is surrounded by. From Joshua Tree to Death Valley, Kings Canyon or Salton Sea, we are immersed in this incredible State with all kinds of moving landscapes. I like the idea of following the Sun. Maybe starting to go watch the sunrise in the desert and slowly veer back towards LA to explore some of the neighborhoods here, and the incredible communities and experiences in the city from DTLA, and the amazing food we have access to. Eventually we’d end up watching the sunset at one of the stunning beaches. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I have to give huge credit to my parents and sister who have always stood by my side my whole life no matter what crazy decision I make to stay true to myself throughout my career. They have been incredibly supportive even in the worst of times when things feel like they’re going all wrong, and they never lost faith that I was doing my very best to keep doing what I truly loved and was passionate about. And a big shoutout to my creative family at Pixar Animation Studios, where I worked for several years. Even though it wasn’t my first creative full-time job, I feel like through my tenure at the Studio I learned an incredible amount of personal, life and artistic skills that cemented who I am today.