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Tamara Sotelo: Photographer

Where are you from and what do you do?

I was born in Madrid, but I consider myself Mexican because I grew up in Mexico City and my mother and our family are all from there. Mexico is my home and always in my heart. I work in an advertising agency called Alma in the Strategic Insights department.

Does being Hispanic affect your work at all?

Yes, I think that your upbringing defines who you are and in turn what people, places and stories you are more naturally drawn to. I grew up in Mexico City surrounded by beautiful colors, tastes and a rich culture. But I also witness the horrible disparities between social classes, security issues, and governmental uproars. I think it has made me more sensitive to certain issues and has allowed me to connect and relate to people and places with similar stories. Mexico taught me how to deeply value traditions, cultural heritage and understood the effects of colonization to our indigenous groups. All of this has made me curious enough to want to see the world and capture the richness of diverse cultures, nature and animals for its preservation.

When did you start taking pictures?

I started taking photos 20 years ago when I started to travel on my own. I wanted to capture the beauty and rich components of each place but I did not have a proper camera, I did what I could with what I had at the time.

What’s your favorite thing to photograph?

I love to photograph people in their culture but I also like to photograph animals up close.

What’s the most beautiful place/thing you’ve gotten to photograph?

Sumatra in Indonesia.

What do you hope to see for your photography hobby in the future?

I want to do more photography with purpose to photo document and storytell diverse issues around world in regards to the preservation of culture, nature, and animals. There are tons of stories to be told to create social change and help people and animals through photography and I want to be part of it.

Can you tell me about your experience with Photographers Without Borders?

Joining photographers without borders has been a transformational experience. I knew that coming to Sumatra to photo document the protectors of the forest and endangered animals would be once in a lifetime experience and it sure was. This journey will influence the way I photograph and tell stories for the rest of my life. One of my biggest lessons was on ethics and responsibility as a photographer. Also, to capture and tell the stories of difficult situations is not easy since it will take you through physical and emotional rollercoasters. But when you photograph with purpose to help create change and better the circumstances of people, animals, and nature, it is all worth it.

What’s been the most moving/amazing thing you’ve encountered during this experience?

A woman named Nayla, she is the communications officer at The Orangutan Information center, the nonprofit we worked with. She’s a protector of the forest, a warrior, a strong empowered woman living in the mist of discrimination because she is a woman in conservation who speaks up and follows her heart, which is not well seen or accepted in Sumatra.

Is there anything you would like to tell aspiring artists or other artists doing their work?

Don’t underestimate your power, when you follow your heart and start doing what you are passionate about doors start to open.


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