KEY TO THE CITY: THE BONITA BEHIND THE CAMERA
Hey Key! Thanks for doing this interview with us. For the Bonitas who may not have seen your work yet, can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and what you do?
"My name is Kiara Terrero aka Key for Key.Lenz, I am a 2nd generation Dominican and Cuban female photographer based out of New York City with an affiliation to the Bronx and Queens, where my parents grew up. I had a passion for photography as early as 8 years old and have been shooting photography professionally for the last few years."
When and what inspired you to pursue a career in professional photography?
"What inspired me to pursue a career in photography started when I was very young. My interest in photography was driven by my curiosity to capture the photographs' story. I picked up my first camera when I was 10. I remember the feeling of holding the camera in my hand and lifting it up with the cold steel of the body of the camera touching my face at that moment as I was framing a shot and getting ready to hit the shutter button, I felt a sense of zen and happiness as I connected with the very moment I was capturing.
My mentor is Tio Jessy, a successful filmmaker. I remember being on set on one of his shoots where he turned around and said, "there is more longevity when you are behind the camera rather than in front of it." After that advice, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the arts. As a teenager, my parents enrolled me in summer and weekend courses at the International Center of Photography in New York City, where I learned the fundamentals of film, color, and technical aspects of photography."
As you may know, Viva La Bonita was born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, also known as “The Valley” in California. We are still based there and find huge inspiration from our neighborhood for collections, photoshoots, and just overall vibes. Can you tell us a little about where you grew up? What was that like?
"I grew up in New York City.
Living in Manhattan exposed me to so much art and culture. The moment I would step outside my apartment building and touch a city sidewalk, I was continuously inspired by everything around me, such as the people I pass by on the street, local stores, street fashion, and of course, the subway that is a whole other universe. I saw the city as my backdrop to capture its best and sometimes worst moments.
I would come up with photo shoot ideas and convince my friends to become my models, which would always be an adventure. We would find the craziest places to shoot photos, like abandoned buildings, hospitals, and cool homes.
My art teacher recognized my potential in high school and took me under her wing. She would give me assignments to help me progress and expand my work. She was a true inspiration and allowed me to submit my photographs to get recognized and that which won awards. She also helped me build my portfolio for college, where I was accepted to my top pick school, the School of Visual Arts in New York City. I recently graduated with Honors with my Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in Photography and Film. During art school, I started to build an interest in fashion photography. I would offer free photo shoots to local fashion brands. As I took on more projects and started sharing my content, more brands inquired about working with me. I found myself developing creative concepts, scouting models, putting mood boards together, managing production, and going on location scouts for the brand hiring me. I feel privileged to have worked with some of the top creative fashion designers and brands in my generation who are representing Latin culture through their product lines, such as Bronx Native, Despierta, and now Viva La Bonita."
What is your favorite part about creating art in NY? What inspires your photography style?
"My favorite part about creating art in New York is discovering different locations and meeting people of different backgrounds with unique personalities and their own experiences to share. Everyone I meet and work with along the way has a story to tell, and I help them amplify that story through my lens.
I am so grateful for being a New Yorker. It's what makes me "me". It is integrated into who I am as a person, who I aspire to be, and part of my work. New York drives my creativity and shines through most of my content. There is no place I would rather be but New York; it makes me a better artist.
What inspires my photography style are the photographers I admire like Raven B Varona, Enktypt Los Angeles, and Estevan Oriol, as they are all photographers that focus on their community. Even though they get amazing opportunities to shoot celebrities, their personal work speaks soundly. It inspires me to want to continue my personal work to focus on things that matter in my own community. Something else that inspires my photography is classic movies that my dad (film nerd) would have me watch with him. He has introduced me to the great films directed by the iconic filmmakers and storytellers of our time, such as Quentin Tarantino and Steven Spielberg."
We absolutely love the shoot you did for us recently with our VLB Tie Dye Sets in the Bronx. Can you share with us some of your inspiration for the shoot?
"When coming up with the concept for the VLB Tie Dye Collection shoot, I wanted to hit this shoot with some hard hitters and make it known that Viva La Bonita is coming to NYC. What better way to do that than to shoot in my very own borough that is dear and near to me: the Bronx. It is where I hangout most of the time, have lots of great friends who live there, and it's so rich in Latin culture. It's a vibe, a way of life.
The selection of models were important to me to ensure they represented the Bronx proudly. I had to call my dear friends, Mel and Corella, two strong, young females who are always repping the Bronx with everything they do, and the concept was born.
I wanted to shoot at Yankee Stadium by the train station and at the local skatepark since one of my models, Mel, is a skater. I wanted to be able to capture her environment. As a collective we thought, "What is the 2nd most iconic place in the Bronx? But of course, a pizza shop."
For the second shoot, we shot at our model Corinna friend's house which has a nail tech business running out of her apartment in the Bronx. This was a fun shoot because I never knew that you could run a nail salon out of an apartment but in New York, anything is possible. It was especially nice to give the spotlight to a talented nail tech artist and get some dope shots of a unique nail salon for VLB.
The entire shoot told a story about living and breathing in New York. It was a big success. We could send the message across that VLB was present here in NYC in a real authentic way."
How has Viva La Bonita impacted you personally? Creatively?
"Viva La Bonita and what it represents have positively and creatively impacted me. I am a fan first!
I remember being in college coming across the brand on Instagram and was instantly drawn to VLB and their strong message about Latina empowerment. It was the first representation of a Latina-owned brand that showed girls like me that the sky's the limit. From there, I always looked at VLB as a sense of inspiration because they were always telling stories about their brand and clothing, loudly driving a powerful message forward.
Viva La Bonita was the top #1 brand I wanted to shoot for and I didn't think it would be possible. After much persistence, coming full circle from a fan and shooting for them in New York, I feel like I am dreaming!"
What is one of your favorite Viva La Bonita quotes and collections? Why?
"One of my favorite collections that Viva La Bonita has done that I truly love would have to be the LEAD Skate Shop x Viva La Bonita collaboration.
It felt very close to home since during the time this collection was being released, I was starting to shoot skaters. To see VLB doing this collaboration to highlight female skaters was inspirational. Not to mention that VLB had their own decks. It was fire, and something very different that I have yet to see other brands do.
Another collection that I really liked from VLB was the Tie Dye Crewneck Sweatshirt collection.
The phrases they had on the sweaters, such as "Emotional Gangsta," "Beautiful Shade of Brown", "Mujeres are Magic," and "Dream Big Mija," were definitely something that drew my attention. Even the meaning behind using tie dye for their sweaters was admirable because no tie dye is the same, just as no one person is the same; we are all unique in our way.
Lastly, I loved the campaign video [for the Tie Dye Crewnecks]. It made me feel like I was on the right track with my career, doing things my way at my own pace. I remember once, for a school project, my friends and I did our own campaign shoot with a similar theme, so I was super excited to see a bigger fashion brand I admire also introduce a similar theme with their campaign video."
Shop the embroidered VLB Tie Dye Sets in Pink and Tan now in sizes S - 3X on www.VivaLaBonita.com and the official VLB App in the App Store for iOS and the Google Play Store for Android.
BONITAS: Mel and Corinna
Interview: by Bonita
Talent and confidence is what makes you great at what you do!
Remember to always stay true to your self
Lastly… once a NYer always a NYer.
Leave a comment