"Active Memory" Was a collaborative exhibit of Leon Villagomez's intimate portraiture and lifestyle photography combined with Johnathon DeSoto's year in protest photography. The two photographers want find the links between the things we love and care about in our personal lives and what that looks like in public.
León Villagomez How close are you from the social issues we are currently experiencing it the country? How directly affected are you, your family or your community? As an immigrant, I’ve experienced all kind of moments, all kind of discrimination. I’ve been witness of injustice and hate, I’ve experienced the feeling that you don't belong based only in the color of your skin, the language you speak, the place you were born or even your personal or spiritual believes. I’ve seen anger in a society that lives with fear.
But also I’ve seen the other side, the one that tells you your not alone, that you are welcome and you can make a difference. I’ve seen the side that makes you feel joy and brings hope. I have the fortune to leave my own country because of love and not for a hunger, need or safety. But I’ve meet many who are not as lucky, who had no choice. This has made me more conscience about the person I am and the person I want to be, more conscience about the place I live and the role I want to play as part of my community. Through my work I try to transmit those feelings, create quiet moments in images. My camera it’s my tool, but my work is made with my heart. With my photographs I try to share emotions. I try to create memories, I try to share love.
Johnathon DeSoto Often activism, protest, politics and civic engagement are seen as something distinct from our private lives. I think often think of Dr. Cornel West’s quote, “Justice is what love looks like in public”. I’ve attended several protests over the past year, since 45 has been elected. I’ve been blown away by the passion, determination and sacrifice that many protesters have practiced in the streets. They are out there because they love something so much that they have no other choice than to straighten their backs and fight for it.
The love work doesn’t stop after a protest ends. For the work to continue, it requires us to find joy, love and personal fulfillment, in order to create an inner abundance. But it doesn’t stop there. That’s what the “cult of self” which is the dominant, capitalistic, nihilistic, narcissistic and divisive ideology teaches us. Developing that inner abundance is so that we actually have something to give when we engage with the external world.
I have personally found that there is absolutely no substitute for engaging with real people, who are doing the hard work of advocacy. Something gets imprinted in my cells when I sit across from someone who is talking about the fear they have for their sick relative. There is a sensitivity that’s created by being around human bodies marching in the street for human that was killed because of the color of his skin. There is a depth that is learned from going to a rally and experiencing the music and culture that is at risk for being deported. A low vibration runs through my body, when when the products of nature are fighting to conserve the life source that they are dependent on. Finding the people who are the most passionate, determined and intelligent about the things they care about has fundamentally altered my baseline of being. It has opened my mind and heart. It has made me a revolutionary.