We had the good fortune of connecting with Luis Burgos and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Luis, how do you think about risk?
I think of risk as the cost of moving forward. It is a risk to stand by your work and to share it with the world. It is a risk to email someone you have never met and ask for their consideration. It is a risk to speak up in your industry, to try and shape it for the better.
Risk has been essential to my career. I was never certain of their outcomes but I knew that if I did not try, if I did not take that risk, that I would never move forward. I tried somethings and failed, learning my strengths and my areas for growth. I used this knowledge to forge a path. Other times I tried things and succeeded only to find I did not enjoy the work. All of this was vital for me to find my way.
My first internship was at W Magazine and I had no idea what to expect. Leaving that toxic environment was a huge risk, I thought I was burning bridges but it turns out I was standing up for myself and those that followed. When I decided to switch to photography, I had not studied it in college and I knew there was the risk that I would fail with no experience. Yet I tried and I learned. With time I grew and found myself working on sets I would have never dreamed of. Risk pays off.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My art is based in literature. Often times when I read, I see the scene in my head and this leads me to create what I imagine. I often use quotes to set the story. I also share quotes with my subjects to give them something to think about as I witness them through my lense.
I am most proud of my recent photo stories, which delve into the intersection between my Black and Jewish identities. I chose to create a series based off a Torah portion and presented my story to my Jewish Community. This was at the beginning of the current BLM movement and the torah portion at the time featured Miriam accusing Moses of marrying “outside the tribe,” by marrying Zipporah, a Black woman. I used this opportunity to spark dialogue around racism within the Jewish community and how to move forward with this knowledge.
I am where I am today by taking stands for myself and my worth. The fashion industry has a disgusting history of exploiting people and when it comes to black bodies, there is an exploitation alongside an exclusion. It was not easy, I had to stand my ground against “prestigious” names that I experienced to be racist. I overcame these challenges by no longer staying silent with them, knowing that the more of us that speak out, the harder the message sinks in and the more that can be done to address the problem.
The main lesson I learned along the way was not to allow others to take credit for my work and to demand equal pay for the work I do. By saying no to exploitation, I have managed to create a freelance network for myself that pays me right so I don’t have to “grind” to make ends meat. Rather I can work 2-3 days a week and earn a comfortable living so I have time to take care of mySelf and my personal work.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love the Broad museum and LACMA for art in LA. Daikokuya for Japanese in Little Tokyo, Blossom for New American in SilverLake, and Wood Spoon for Brazilian in DTLA. Intelligentsia for the best Lattes in the country. Downtown LA is a walking Art Deco tour with some fun spots like the Last Bookstore and the Central Library. Paddle boats in Echo Park for the views and the sun. Franklin Canyon has my favorite trails in the city with fewer crowds than anywhere else in the Basin.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Heather Hazzan – After working in the fashion industry for 10 years, I was beginning to lose hope that sets could ever be inclusive, diverse, or safe. She creates space for difference; she holds space for discomfort and joy. She pays it forward by taking care to look for women and BIPOC folx to bring onto her sets. She also has given me countless opportunities, from assisting her with little experience to producing an editorial for Man About Town. She has been a friend and a mentor since I switched to photo.
Both are Self Portraits – I have rights to these images.