To the outside world, it appears as if photography was a secured lifestyle for Gabriel Perez Silva, but the truth is, he had absolutely no idea where he’d be today, exactly one year ago.
Believe me when I tell you that your life can literally change in a matter of twelve months. This 21-year-old Fashion photographer and activist can attest to that.
Although Gabriel was born in Colombia, he grew up in Broward County, Florida “playing with cameras, but it wasn’t very noticed because the environment that I grew up in — the culture, it was for me to be an athlete” says Gabriel, as he tells his story.”
However, life wasn’t so strightforward when a doctor’s order encouraged Perez to get surgery on his shoulder, due to a torn labrum. This put a stop to his athletic career, and “was my way out of swimming.”
Although, Gabriel was originally attending a university in Baltimore (because of its division one athletic team), he began developing a keen interest in the arts.
“That freshman year, I had to take an art course. And I didn’t want to do photography, I wanted to do drawing. But something with the credits” — “I had no choice but to do photography. Being apart of it, re-sparked an older passion of mine.”
Perez later discusses the immediate success he gained after getting back into photography. “One of my pieces from Indonesia, got chosen for an exhibit, that’s how I started up again.”
After resting for a span of six months to a year due to surgery recovery, he “focused down on it,” and began owning his craft, that summer.
He made a conscious decision to pack all his belongings and move to Italy. Though he produced shoots here and there, he still felt like a part of him was missing.
He later enrolled into Florida Atlantic University, signed up for a semester of art, and acquired an internship at New York Model Management. After his semester ended, Perez left school for the second time, and finally moved to New York City.
How did you begin owning your craft?
“Since my background is so different than everyone else in the industry, it allows me to see things a little bit differently. To relate to more people, and understand.”
Essentially, what does photography mean to you now?
“For me it’s important. The way I grew up, I was never good at expressing myself. Emotion wasn’t very much a thing, or allowed.”
Also art “for me it’s a way I can express myself. Be more in touch with myself, reach out to people, share my story, and just reminisce. My photography is nostalgic, so it’s for you to interpret.”
Are you ever faced with any creative blocks? If so, how do you get around them?
“Well my thing is, if anything I strive to be more of an artist, than a photographer. To create a piece is more than just learning how to edit something. A lot of-people get lost in technicalities, but it’s keeping it simple — creating something with more power and a message.”
When it comes to creative blocks — “not really. I already don’t like to plan things out. I tend to be disorganized with my life in general. I’m better at it now, but when it comes to my work, I don’t plan to much. I like to leave it open for things to happen.”
Are there points in your career where you feel uninspired?
“Not really. Because I don’t need inspiration to make art, with art I find inspiration. There’s certain projects that I do want to bring to life. One of the projects I’m working on, is shooting more things with substance versus just pretty girls and what not.”
What is your relationship like with Winnie Harlow? How did you connect with her? How has that relationship grown?
“Winnie is dope! When I met her, it was at the Met Gala. They needed a photographer…”
Wait, how did you even connect with the individuals at the Met Gala?
“5 months into my internship, I was ready to leave, and someone tagged me in an instagram post about Winnie needing a photographer. Her team contacted me through social media and the Met Gala was the week after.
The first time I met Winnie, I thought I was meeting her manager. So, I don’t even know why, but I came with f**king short shorts over my thighs, a ripped shirt, a baseball hat, crusty a** tennis shoes. I don’t know what I was doing.”
At the Met Gala …
“At first, she was hating the pictures at the Met Gala. I was stressing like “oh sh*t, oh gosh what am I going to do, things are going south quick! But then, quickly things were adjusted. Then I took a photo of her with her head piece on, everything changed for the better. They were satisfied with those photos and started calling me for everything. Then we became friends, hung around and formed a relationship! She’s cool…”
What’s the most difficult decision you have had to make thus far?
“The first one I can think of is leaving school for the first time. When I left, I didn’t know if I would’ve had that push — I was almost kicked out. But school gave me the push I needed.”
Do you believe that if you stayed in school, you would be presented with the same opportunities you have now?
“Well, everyone thought I was going to become a bum. Once I stopped swimming, very few people believed in me.”
5 Things You Have to Have in Your Camera Bag
“I have to have my camera, and a lens. I always have to have a snack. Even Winnie brings me snacks. The people who are around me now carry snacks. Especially Chobani yogurt. I carry a flash for the camera. Extra batteries. My computer sometimes. But my essentials are (1) camera (2) SD card (3) Lens, (4) Flash and (5) snack.
Some people carry too many things.”
What would you have told yourself a year ago?
“Just be you. The type of person I am is why everything is happening. Right now, the event I’m having, my dream was to give back. Now I can do that.”
“I wanted to work with Mac Miller this year. It was something in the works, but then …you know. I want to do more work with Vogue.”
What advice would you give to an upcoming photographers?
“Be in it for the right reasons. Not for the girls, or whatever. Nothing is impossible, you gotta make sh*t happen.”
What’s next for you?
“Since I’m freelance, I’m hoping to get represented this year. Also, I want to help kids in Ghana that can’t afford surgery or braces or screenings — it can all be prevented if you have knowledge from screening. For me it’s important to have some type of juice/ influence. Even if it’s not a lot, it means a lot to me.”
Background + Upcoming Event …
“In middle school I was diagnosed with scoliosis. I was given a back brace, but I didn’t think much about it. Then because of a mis diagnosis, it ended up getting worse and I had to wear a back brace twenty three hours a day for a year and a half in high school. It still causes me pain and mental health issues to this day, but I have found ways to live with it and always dreamed of helping kids with it.
The event is my first solo showcase 1 year after moving to NYC in honor Scoliosis Foundation Ghana. There will be prints for sale with all proceeds going to them. 20-25 of my favorite pieces will be displayed in an amazing venue in Manhattan. We will have waiters passing around horderves, it will be an elegant evening, fujifilm sent us cameras and film to have fun with. There will be a red carpet as well and a few notable names. This Thursday night.”
See Details Below