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Interview with film photographer Amelia Berumen

As we're all well aware that there is an abundance of photography, it can be challenging to have work that stands out. Without an obvious effort, we can feel the warmth and love captured through the lens of Amelia Berumen. We were totally blown away when we first saw Amelia's zine "Rudos VS Técnicos, Volume 1". As many of us have enjoyed the sport of Lucha Libre, Amelia provided a much more intimate look into their environment and the underground world that makes it so unique. Everything that Amelia documents instantly becomes important because she's chosen to freeze moments in time to share with the world. After being active for a short time in the Do It Yourself Zine scene, Amelia has quickly carved out a special corner for her prolific work. As she continues to release several of her own zines to having her work recently archived by The Costume Institute Library based from New York's Metropolitan Museum, and to now contributing to the most recent issue of the world renowned film zine HAMBURGER EYES. We know Amelia's work is here to stay and we can't wait to see what her future will bring as her photos continue to bring light into a sometimes dark seeming world. Please enjoy this interview with Amelia and check out her work via Instagram, Big Cartel online store, and through her self published Blog.

We’ve seen that you DJ under the name Lonely Girl, what are some essential records that you cannot live without?

 Just to name a few...

Andrea Davis - Lonely Girl

Parliment - Flashlight

Dazz Band - Joystick

Ozone - Strutt my thang

Barbara Mason - Another Man

What do you think are some essential parts to being a DJ?

I think what is essential for DJs is creating the vibe with their music. Best DJs I have seen really get into what they are playing by moving and feeling the music and that hypes up the crowd.

Where did you grow up?

 I grew up in the bay area, mostly Union City and Oakland.

Do you feel that your surroundings have influenced your work?

Yes absolutely!  Since I've moved to Oakland, 13 years ago, my work either it be fashion, textiles or photography has always influenced my work.   As soon as I walk out of my apartment, I am immediately faced with people, places, remnants of what night people left behind.  I am constantly inspired to imagine here in Oakland.   Everyday I meet new people and hear different stories.  Oakland is a very active town, everyday is something new and different.  People are always moving and changing.   Everything seems to always come full circle here...

How did you get into photography?

My father got me into photography.   He gave me my first camera when I was about 7, since then I always taking pictures.  He gave me my first SLR minolta when I was 15 years old.   I stopped shooting film about 10 years ago when I lost my camera.  After that I never thought of getting a new one, I just began taking pics with my sisters digital camera or my phone.  I began shooting film again last summer because of my good friend, Sean, who shoots film.  I had met him a few years ago in Brooklyn with a film camera around his neck and he inspired me to pick up film again.  Since last summer been shooting film and haven't been able to stop.

Do you have a favorite camera?

I have a Minolta af2 that I love.  It's an old point and shoot that is simple to use and the photos come out so crisp and clean.  I love simple cameras and I use a minolta I found at the thrift store.  Most of my cameras are minolta or Olympus.  I also feel lucky that my friends have given me cameras to shoot with.   One day I wanna get a Leica film camera, that is my dream camera.

If you had to choose one type of film would it be Black and white film or color film?

Something about black and white film for me feels timeless.  My photos can be from 2017 or 1977, who knows!  Also I am still learning about lighting and things, so with black and white I feel like I can get away with bad lighting scenarios.   I love shooting color too, I find myself randomly switching off films, kinda like closing my eyes and picking up whatever film I choose.  I also have had some instances where I really think about what film to shoot with for different scenarios or projects.  It just depends on what, where and mood Im shooting.

"I love shooting black and white."

What inspires you to use photography as a means of expression?

I think the biggest inspiration for me has been the desire to connect to people and to my community.  I feel like with photography, I get to do that in a more intimate way than with other mediums that I have created with, like textiles or painting.

We love your ever-growing Lucha Libre series; do they ever get shy around your camera? Have you yourself ever considered wrestling?

Aww thanks!!  No my friends never get shy!  They love the camera and the camera loves them!  The guys are such natural performers and artists that it makes my job very easy and enjoyable.  Since I was little I have considered joining lucha libre.  But every once in awhile the guys ask me when am I gonna start training.  Maybe soon, I would need a good name and uniform to match!  I do help in sewing or mending their outfits, so in many ways I am more than just the photographer to them, we hang out and they come over to get fitted for their alterations to the uniforms.  I have become part of their club in a way.

Any photographers you’re into lately?

I'm so bad with names, but I follow many and I just love more of the documentary photography.  Joseph Rodriguez on IG has been posting a lot of his photos of his series Flesh Life Sex in Mexico City, I just love his work, I always have.  I love that he is on social media.  I had his eastside book, I found it about 8 years ago.  Sean Maung, my bff and mentor is also my favorite.  He has really supported my work and I just love his work.  I recently met and hung out with Valerie J. Bower, who I just adore.  I love her vision and work.  I am very inspired by others but too many to name.  I’m always studying and looking at Graciela Iturbide's work.  She has been such an inspiration since I was in college.  I tend to always go back to her work when I need inspiration.

How has the Internet and social media affected you as an artist?

It has a definite positive affect.  I have only really used social media for my work.  I don't get really too personal.  I like that my photos can reach all parts of the country and world.  I love that!  I recently sent zines to Spain and Japan!  I think social media is great for that.  Growing up we had to pay for ad space and pay for things to show our work and now it's free!  I just aged myself...

Do you want your photography to make people feel a type a way?

I don't intend for any kind of feeling.  I take photos to tell a story.  My perspective and what I see.  My ideas of beauty, pain, desire and struggle.  I’m telling a story and it's up to folks to see and hear what they want.  I don't ever intend to wanna make people feel what I feel but when it happens, I can't help but to feel a certain satisfaction that my vision translated or just feeling like I am being understood.  I take photos for myself, when others like them makes me feel like I am getting through to other minds and hearts, it's a nice feeling.

Can you tell us about any projects you have in the works? Any upcoming publications?

 I am always working on my Lucha Series.  I will be working on Volume 2 of the zine series.  I just got published in the new Hamburger Eyes zine.  Which is really exciting.  Also some of my photos will be part of a book project called "The New American Photographer" by William Camargo.  It's very exciting.  I’m putting together new zines.  I have been working on a project since last December called Urban Indian.  Still in the beginnings of it, hoping to really jumpstart this one soon, it is a series that I have been working on little by little.  Last summer I spent reading every single Sherman Alexie book ever printed and published and this series is inspired by some of his writings and also inspired by the Native history of Oakland.

If we were in your neck of the woods, where would we go for some bomb tacos?

 If you were in Fruitvale, you would have to get tacos de birria on the corner of 34th and e.15th in front of the post office, tacos de papa at Mi Barrio on international and 48th ave.  If you want fish tacos then El Tamarindo on derby and international blvd or if your in the mood for tacos al vapor then the stand that is next door to the payless on international and 34th ave.  I'm sure these places have names but this is the only way I remember them.

What are some of your favorite things about growing up in the Bay area?

I think my favorite thing is the breeze.  Folks from the bay, we breezy and cool.  The music, diversity, culture and scenery.  I love the bay, there is no place like it.  I hate that it has changed so much but the real ones that are still here are holding it down.

Does Oakland feel a lot different then Los Angeles? Do you feel a different vibe when you visit the City of Angels?

 Oh yes, Oakland is very different in some ways but also similar.  I live in Fruitvale and every time I go visit I end up in Macarthur park which is just like Fruitvale.  There is no place like Venice Beach though. I love Venice, it's a totally different dimension than in the bay or the world at that.  Oakland doesn't have the swap meets and celebrities as much as LA.  Oakland's vibe is chill, folks out here on a different wavelength, or at least the folks that I am around.  I find Oakland to be very community oriented and there is lots of organizing and movement out here.  We are the town that kicked Uber out and all those google busses....  we don't play out here.

Finish this sentence

Oakland is the city of ..... the movement, the struggle and desire.

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