On Tuesday afternoon, international photographer Kike Calvo presented on his professional evolution from photographing nature to documenting human life.
Calvo, a photojournalist who works for National Geographic and the New York Times among other publications, gave a lecture to almost 40 Yalies in a Davenport College Master’s Tea titled “Life as a Photographer.” During his talk, Calvo displayed a slideshow of pictures illustrating his development from a 17-year-old wildlife photographer to an experienced chronicler of different aspects of humanity, such as a series on Columbian ballerinas. Calvo said he transitioned to a more sophisticated style of photography to raise awareness about problems faced by society.
“Would I like to be an artist who takes pictures of great whites jumping out of the water, or would I like to be an artist who makes people think?” Calvo said.
Calvo discovered his passion for photography at an early age, he said, but still fantasized about working on Wall Street for financial reasons. But when his father, respected radio personality and journalist Enrique Calvo, died of lung cancer in 1992, Calvo decided to “do what made [himself] happy” and pursue photography as a career.
At the start of the presentation, Calvo showed attendees a series of his early works, which included pictures documenting elements of nature and several animals. But all of his early photographs lacked any human presence. Calvo then presented photographs taken on an Antarctic expedition — a series from the beginning stages of his interest in photographing humans, he said. To close, Calvo presented a sequence of photographs depicting indigenous Columbian people, the final stage of his development as a photojournalist.
Calvo said his earlier photographs aimed to show perfection found in nature, but he later focused on human subjects because they illustrate the flaws that can be found in humanity. Though his work has been used in publications from the Wall Street Journal to Vanity Fair, Calvo said he does not use Photoshop to alter his original work because he wants to preserve photographs as documentation for future generations.
“The amazing thing about photography is that it will become history,” Calvo said. “[Photographs] are records of the future.”
Calvo — who recently moved to New Haven for roughly two years — said he plans to “share [his] knowledge with the photo community” at Yale. Succeeding as a professional photographer, Calvo said, can be “like the Hunger Games” because of the industry’s competitiveness, but he encouraged Yalies to find inspiration in his story and continue to pursue their career aspirations.
Amateur photographer Stepanie Wisowaty ’16 said she appreciated Calvo’s strong vision as well as his incorporation of human elements into his body of work.
Susanna Benjamin ’15, another aspiring photographer, said she agreed with Calvo’s claim that photographers and photojournalists need to maintain a consistent level of quality throughout their career.
“His life journey was amazing — going from aesthetics to changing people’s lives,” Benjamin said.
Calvo recently launched a photo contest ending in February in which participants submit a photograph documenting Latin America.