Q&A with Ana V. Ramirez, Winner of the 2016 Mylio Grant

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Our relationship with The Luminous Endowment for Photographers is one of the ways in which Mylio works to support the preservation of digital memories. The $2,500 grant is awarded twice annually to artists dedicated to preserving images and memories important to a life, or to telling the true stories of that life in pictures.

“Mylio is proud to support developing photographers preserving important memories.”
David Vaskevitch, Founder and CEO of Mylio

Today, we’re excited to announce and congratulate our most recent grant winner, Ana V. Ramirez. Her body of work, pictured below, is entitled The Things We Leave Behind, a series of still-life photographs of items left to Ana by her mother when she died. I spoke with Ana about her work and her process.

Click to enlarge.

Ana V. Ramirez August 2016 Winner of The Mylio Grant
Ana V. Ramirez
August 2016 Winner of The Mylio Grant
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What can you tell us about yourself?
I can’t put myself in one category… I am a photographer, artist, and writer, but not always in that order. I’ve  been an entrepreneur since I was a kid — I see the business possibilities in what I love to do. I’m also a dogaholic, specifically for  the Siberian Huskies I’ve had in my life.

What does a typical working day look like for you?
I have a lot of projects going at the same time. Besides being an photographer and artist, I do freelance work in social media and marketing, with a focus on Facebook and Twitter. I write a blog, and I’m working on a book. I also draw and do illustration, and am putting together a coloring book. For photography, I’m continuing to work on The Things We Leave Behind, and another project focused on the ocean piers of California. I try to maintain a balance between my freelance work and personal creative work, getting in as much time for personal and artistic projects as I can.

How did you discover the Mylio Grant?
I’d applied a couple of years ago for a landscape grant at Luminous Endowment for Photographers for my ocean piers of California project, but I didn’t win with that submission. I found the Mylio Grant on the Luminous Endowment website and decided to apply. I was still in grad school at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I was assigned something called a Bridge Project, which you start before graduation and continue on your own, to keep us engaged in our creative work when we no longer have school to keep us on task. The Things We Leave Behind was my Bridge Project. I finished grad school in May, and then submitted my work to date in July.

How would you describe your project?
The Things We Leave Behind is a series of neatly composed still-life photographs of things my mom left me when she passed away and the effect her missing presence has had in my life. My mother and I were very close, and these are things that have more meaning to me than just objects. My mother passed away just before I started grad school, and this project has been a cathartic process for me to process my grief, and the radical changes her missing presence and lingering objects have affected in my life. I can remember the first anniversary of my mother’s passing happened during my first semester back at school, and I had a really hard time staying focused. And then graduation was a huge milestone, but I didn’t have her here to share it with me. This project is a way for me to share my growth as an artist with my mother by including her in the work I’m doing, and at the same time process the emotions that might have otherwise stopped me.

Why photography?
I had a floral design business for 7 years — I designed flowers for events and weddings. I loved the work, but it was so hard to get good photos of my stuff, so I started to photograph my own floral arrangements to build a portfolio. With film. I had no training; I learned by doing. Then, when I closed my flower shop, I stopped taking pictures (not counting vacation snapshots and such). I decided to pick it back up around 2008 when I got a little digital point-and-shoot camera. Digital photography before that had been awful and costly, but by 2008 the technology had improved enough that images had become clearer, and the cost of cameras was coming down. I started taking classes online, read books, and then graduated to a DSLR camera. In 2009, I started selling my work as prints online. Photoshop and Lightroom revolutionized everything — I wasn’t just taking photos, but making something out of them. I was one of the first eight photographers Pottery Barn featured and sold on their website. I was so involved in my photography, that I even thought about going to grad school to master my passion. Then my mom got sick, delaying further pursuit of this dream.

“Most importantly, remember your why. If you know why you are doing what you are doing, you can motivate yourself to keep going.”
— Ana V. Ramirez

What do you photograph? Why?
I focus on still-life and landscapes. I used to do portraits, but after my mother’s passing I became more introverted, and I started feeling uncomfortable photographing people. I pushed through it for school projects, but then I decided it just isn’t for me.

What kind of gear do you use?
I’m working on a budget, but I get the best I can afford. A Canon 70D. All prime Sigma lenses. I usually use natural light; sometimes an off-camera flash when the natural light isn’t right. I have a very thrifty lighting setup that works for me and for what I do. Living in sunny Southern California doesn’t hurt, but there are days where I need to enhance my light.

How would you describe your creative process?
Slow. Contemplative. Intuitive. If I’m doing a still-life, I’ll start choosing and placing things. It will take me a really long time to finish. I’ll take shots, move things around, repeating again and again. It’s a very focused, iterative process. In can take hours to get to a shot that I like.

How will you use the grant prize money?
This award is going to give me time. I won’t have to do so much freelance work, and I can afford to focus more on my creative work. I plan to use some of it to publish a book with photographs and stories. I’ll also upgrade my computer, so I can work more quickly.

How do you think your art will evolve from here?
I’m trying new things with post processing, different ways I can go beyond what the camera captures. Working in social media and marketing, I can see that there’s a big push for video today, and I’ve been fighting that in my creative projects. Now I sound like those photographers who say film is best! I do prefer stills, but I feel like I also need to incorporate video in my work, using it to present my stills, or somehow enhance what I am doing.

How do you think photography will evolve?
Again, there’s going to be a push for more video. Mobile photography and videography will become more commonly used for capturing and creating exceptional work. Mobile apps let me do so much on my phone that I never knew was possible. Everything gets more megapixels, file sizes will get bigger, more storage on devices, faster bandwidth. More, more, more. Traditional mediums and techniques will continue to grow in popularity. Really talented fine art photographers are using film, large format film, cyanotype, wet plate collodion to create. Really talented fine art photographers are using these processes, and this will continue to grow. These older methods become art while mobile becomes standard, like vinyl records are making a comeback while streaming and intangible music has become the standard. The old ways will remain, because you get an experience with these materials that you can’t get with digital equipment.

What advice do you have for other artists and photographers?
One of the things I really enjoy doing is motivating other creative people to take a chance, and do what they really want to do. Take that class. Take that picture that you’re afraid to take. Do what feels right to you. Most importantly, remember your why. If you know why you’re doing what you are doing, you can motivate yourself to keep going.

To learn more about The Mylio Grant, past winners, and how to apply, visit us here