We’re proud to introduce you to Ivan Vega today! A relative newcomer on EyeEm, Ivan’s photos caught our eye for their subtle composition and strong storytelling. We asked the Chicago based actor and director about his relation to photography, theatre and TFPR, a project about the Puerto Rican flag and identity..
Hi Ivan! Why don’t you introduce yourself quickly: who are you, what do you do, where do you come from and how was your day so far?
My name is Ivan Vega. I’m a husband, actor and self-taught photographer. I’m of Puerto Rican ethnicity, born and raised in Chicago. I love food and have two different color eyes. I’ve been acting for 15 years working in theater, film/commercial and voice-over and I’m also the co-founder and executive director of UrbanTheater Company. My day is going well. Right now, I’m at Sip Coffee, one of my favorite Chicago café’s, listening to salsa on Pandora, while chopping away at my to-do-list.
Tell us a bit about your images. How did you get into photography?
I’ve always loved looking at my parents photo albums when I was a kid. There was something magical about those albums full of character and seeing all the photos of my family when they lived in Puerto Rico all the way until they moved to Chicago. I loved the colors, the clothing, the hair, the cars, their journey.
When I was studying acting at Roosevelt University, located downtown Chicago, I bought my first camera — a Nikon D60 film camera. I purchased it from Central Camera, Chicago’s oldest camera store founded in 1899. It was the best gift I ever gave myself.
Since then, I never stopped taking photos. I found joy documenting people, family events, parties, production, vacations…anything I could get my lens on. Everywhere I went, my camera followed. It became an expensive hobby, until I switched to digital. The way I learned (and continue to learn) about photography, was just by shooting things that attracted my eye, and then reshooting.
Even now, I continue to challenge myself with photography and I’m always willing to learn and grow. Acting is my first love. Photography is a strong passion. At the end of the day, they both entail storytelling and I enjoy telling a good story.
Do you still shoot film sometimes or have you completely switched to digital/mobile?
I haven’t shot film in a while. At the moment, I just shoot mobile, while occasionally putting my digital SLR to work. I hope to get back into film soon.
How did your love affair with mobile photography start?
Since I’ve always been drawn to photography, it was only natural for me to want to continue taking photos with my first cell phone, even though the quality was not great. Every time I would upgrade my cell phones, the camera resolution became better. I wasn’t blown away, but I was still satisfied with my mobile gadget. It wasn’t until my first iPhone, which replaced my Blackberry Curve (less than a year ago), that I truly discovered the true potential of mobile photography. I was automatically hooked!
Being able to document my life and journey is much more easily accessible now. As an artist, I’m not only able to challenge myself and fulfill my creative needs, but I can instantly share my work with others across the world through apps like EyeEm. Community and interaction is one of my favorite things.
Do you see the world differently since your camera is always with you?
I do now a lot more than before. I spend a lot of time in my car driving and I’m always in and out of different neighborhoods throughout the day. Sometimes I purposely go into different places that I haven’t been to in order to find my capture of the day. Shooting mobile makes it so much easier for me to document whatever moment I want, without having to pull out my SLR. It’s become my everyday point and shoot.
Is there a particular shot you took in recent times that’s important to you?
I just celebrated my one year anniversary with wife, Melissa, in Galena, IL. The photos taken on that trip are all important to me. I wouldn’t say that there is one in particular.
What are your projects for the future, both photography related and non photography related?
I started a project a few years ago called THE FLAG PROJECT (TFPR), which documents the Puerto Rican flag as a national symbol of pride and the various ways it’s displayed. I created three differents posters that I have sold. The titles of the poster’s are as follows: “Community”, “Honor. Bride. Boricua” and “Flag of Humboldt Park”.
TFPR has taken life on Instagram and Twitter, but the ultimate goal is to create a coffee table book. Aside from that, the biggest part of being an actor is auditioning, so I continue to seek opportunities and create miracles. Lastly, I was recently nominated for Kettle One’s Modern Hispanic Gentleman for my work with UrbanTheater Company and our community efforts. Now, I’m just waiting for the next steps regarding the nomination.