Street Wise: Abraham Cepeda

Abraham Cepeda is a photographer and student working in Fort Worth, Texas. He is a native Texan and a student at the University of North Texas where he is working on his undergrad in Studio Art – Photography. Cepeda’s work provides a window peek into the human experience of the current day. He captures honest, undirected photographs of people and provides a social commentary of various cultures, people and neighborhoods he photographs. His sporadic process emphasizes human interaction, expression and gesture.

DR: When did you first start photographing? Which photographers inspired you first?

AC: My first experience with photography was during my senior year of high school when I decided to take a photography class for a remaining required elective. It was also my introduction to the visual arts, I had preferred music my entire school life. On my 18th birthday my parents got me my first camera ever, a DSLR. I’d say I spent the first two years learning the technical aspects of the camera and later, through photography classes at the local community college, I learned how to develop projects and stories with photography.

Initially I was inspired by photographers we learned about in class through the history of photography; the greats like Diane Arbus, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Nan Goldin, Elliott Erwitt, William Eggleston, etc. I especially liked the street photographers we learned about in class. I eventually started collecting photography books as a means to grow my understanding of photography and that quickly developed into collecting work of contemporary photographers in zine/art book format.

DR: What is your shooting process like? Do you have an idea and then shoot it or do you go out and shoot and the ideas come after?

AC: I would say my shooting process is quite sporadic. I explore a space I want to learn about and let the people who inhabit the space teach me. I prefer to be surprised by the world than to try to direct it. I continue the tradition of street photography and attempt to create a window peek into the human experience of the current day. I like to capture honest, undirected photographs, unrepeatable interactions amongst people and their environment from the various cultures and neighborhoods around my city. This process definitely has me relying heavily on my subjects, timing my approach as perfectly as possible, and being fearless about getting the shot I want. As unexpected and up-to-chance as the process may seem, I am working towards being conscious about my intent and the commentary I inevitably supply. Finding a theme and working towards a book format has definitely helped my efforts be much more efficient and purposeful.

DR: Tell me about your zine, Sonder Zine.

AC: Sonder Zine is my first individual photography zine. The theme of the zine revolves around the term “sonder” from John Koenig’s project The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows - a compendium of invented words aimed to fill a hole in the English language. “Sonder - n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.” I first heard of John Koenig’s project a couple years ago on the internet, and I was immediately struck by this invented word. I had a recall of memories from my childhood. My family would take road trips several times a year; usually they were to other parts of Texas to visit relatives or 14 hour long car rides to Mexico. I remember looking out the window on these car rides and observing the beautiful Texas landscape and, mostly, (maybe out of sheer boredom or fascination) I remember being nosy and looking at the other people we shared the road with and wondering about their lives, their family, the objects they carried with them, etc. This pastime and the never-ending interest in the individuality of humans follows me into adulthood and my photographic work. I thought this invented word would make an appropriate and wonderful theme for my street photography.

DR: What is Dying Photo Club?

AC: Dying Photo Club is a photography collective that’s been around for about two years now, it is made up of a few local photographers from Fort Worth. Myself, Jeremy Pesina and Raul Rodriguez are the original and only members so far. We’ve produced two collective photography zines (we have a color zine in the works at the moment) and have each made our own individual zines. We have even branched out and helped or collaborated with other artists to produce zines. Our starting objective was to combat an annoyance we all had with a faddy style of photography that we saw revolving around social media and its misdirecting view of what photography should look like. However, I say we are now a close-knit, eager collective looking within ourselves and motivating each other to continue creating exciting photography in our area.

DR: What do you plan for the future and your photography?

AC: I am a part-time student at the University of North Texas and I am slowly working towards my undergraduate degree. It would be nice to eventually finish, but, no matter, I will continue photographing and keep searching for that next great shot. I’m always looking forward to different opportunities that allow me to exhibit my photography in local galleries. And I enjoy the book format for my photography so I will continue producing zines and photography books. As a collective, I eagerly want Dying Photo Club to continue exploring self-published/art book/zine showcase opportunities around Texas and beyond. And, eventually, I’d love to see us exhibit as a collective in a gallery space.

Purchase Sonder Zine here.

Follow Dying Photo Club on Instagram.

InterviewRaul Rodriguez