Juan Verduzco

“The goal is to always strive to make your work better.”

S: What kind of camera(s) and equipment do you work with?

J: I mainly stick to Canon digital SLRs now but not long ago I was living in my darkroom and shot on everything from a Canon ELAN 7, to a Yashica Mat-124G, to a Minolta X700. The only one of these cameras I have left is the Yashica. I’ve given the rest to friends like my homie Stephen Mayu who will probably make better use of a film camera than I will.

S: Do you have a preference for camera and equipment, and if so, why?

J: Yeah. I really like my old 20D. It was such a simple camera to operate and it’s the closest I’ve owned to shooting on film with a digital camera.

S: How long have you been shooting photography?

J: Just regularly fucking around? Since I was a kid but I didn’t seriously pick it up until I started doing it after high school.

S: Is photography more of a hobby, work, or both?

J: It’s definitely more of a work thing for me, obviously, but I do enjoy it as a hobby as well because I get to experiment with shots rather than the regimented structure of product photography I’ve worked in most of my professional life.

S: What subjects do you like to work with?

J: Still life and architecture seem to suit me well but, alas, the job requires live subjects from time to time.

S: Are there certain locations that you work best in? Indoor or outdoor? Why?

J: I love shooting outdoors because you can find a challenge in the way you shoot since you have to adapt to your surroundings to get a halfway decent shot. Shooting in a studio you have control of just about every light source, so you can almost always accurately predict what settings you need on your camera to get a good shot.

S: Is there a specific tone that you look for in your photos?

J: No. Obviously you want your subjects to look sharp, but in terms of tone, you really just want to make sure you get your subjects as they are.

S: Is color important in your photography?

J: Not necessarily. Some of my favorite shots I’ve taken have been shot on B&W film and I’ve often found several of my color shots simply work best as B&W. It really just depends on what mood I’m in.

S: What is your editing process like?

J: HA! This used to be way more fun! Nowadays, it’s just, you know, come to your computer, download all your photos, pour through them and edit the ones you like. Back in the day it was being stuck in the dark room for hours developing film, drying it, eyeing every single shot, making a contact sheet, picking your shot and then making your print on your darkroom enlarger. That used to be my version of Sunday Funday because it was literally an all-day process! I sadly don’t have room to build my darkroom again at the moment, so I don’t get to have fun like I used to.

S: What inspires you in your work and style of photography?

J: Guys like Chuck Close and Matt Black are guys who definitely inspire me but not necessarily my work or style. I just adore going through their photos. Chuck Close is more of a painter than a photographer, but his portraits are amazing to me and Matt Black is just this raw force that’s tearing through the world with his lens and focusing it on what a lot of us don’t see; or rather choose not to. Go check out his series “The Geography of Poverty” and tell me I’m wrong.  

S: Have you ever taught photography? What was your takeaway in teaching photography to your students?

J: I taught darkroom photography at Mt. Whitney for a couple of years while I worked for Pro-Youth. That was fun because it brought me back into the darkroom and I had a lot of fun teaching. My only takeaway from teaching it is that it really reminded me of why I got into photography in the first place: Because this shit is FUN!

S: Tell me about your role as a photographer at local music events, particularly with Grizzly Fest and Sound N Vision.

J: I’ve been shooting Sound N Vision shows for the better part of the last 15 years here in Visalia. It’s kind of how I ended up going to Grizzly Fest and Tastemakers. Aaron Gomes has always been this really great force in our community and when he asked me if I could help out with some design and photography aspects with Grizzly Fest, I just jumped along and went with it. I never imagined that I’d be working with this really intense group of people headed by Aren Hekimian who aren’t just talented but have this cosmic-scale energy and pour it with mind-blowing gusto into everything that they do to pull this event off each year. If you can’t work with people like that, you really can’t (and shouldn’t) work anywhere.

S: Do you have any long-term goals in regards to your work?

J: The goal is to always strive to make your work better. Right now work at Pita Kabob is my main focus and, as we grow and expand, the long-term goal is to make sure it’s never stagnant. Grizzly Fest will be there to keep me on my toes.

Interview by Stephanie Barraza