Just one year after taking her first photography class, Valeria Gonzalez Villarreal '17 will show her work in a juried exhibition of only 45 images selected from more than 1,000 submissions from professional photographers around the world.
Her photograph will be included in the 2016 International Juried Exhibition in the Center for Photographic Art in Carmel, opening November 12.
"At her young age, this is extraordinary," said her photography teachers, Michelle Avery and Claire Lerner. "Val has the tremendous gift of patience, skill, and vision, and she is extremely competent and confident at bringing her ideas into fruition. Our art department is so proud of this achievement."
The juror of the exhibition, Linde Lehtinen, is the assistant curator for photography at the world-renowned San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which adds to the prestige of being accepted.
It's the second major achievement for the 18-year-old boarding student: last year, she won first place in the Weston Scholarship portfolio competition, dedicated to keeping the tradition of black and white fine art photography alive.
We talked to Villarreal about her latest honor, her approach to photography, and her plans for the future.
How does it feel to be selected for the 2016 International Juried Exhibition?
I still can't believe it! I'm constantly reminding myself that it is true, and that I made it. I am really happy that my work can be shown in a gallery like the Center for Photographic Art, and that other people can see what I see through photography. It's truly an honor.
What can you tell us about the photograph selected for the exhibit?
The photograph that won is called Heterochromia. It is part of a series I created about a month ago. I gathered a group of girls from school and asked them what they would want to change about themselves. Most of them chose a part of their face, which to me was surprising. I decided to let each of them experience how they would "look" with that specific change in them. So I made them wear paint or cutouts over their faces, and photographed them so that they could see the difference and understand their own beauty.
What draws you to photography?
I began taking photography last year. I began with darkroom photography, and I believe that was the key for me. The whole process of developing film and printing in a darkroom made feel like I truly owned my work. I spent countless hours in the darkroom, so that I lost my fear of darkness and it became my favorite place. It feels amazing to create your own photographs, and to show the world exactly as you see it. I understood the power of the visual image, and the things you can be capable of doing with it.
How have Ms. Avery and Ms. Lerner helped you?
Ms. Avery and Ms. Lerner have been my lifesavers! They have helped me throughout the whole process. I honestly think that without their help, I wouldn't know how to present and edit my photographs. I certainly don't think I would be where I am now. I am forever thankful for them.
Do you plan to pursue photography after Catalina?
I know that I want to keep photographing. Even if in the end I don't decide to major in photography, I plan to keep doing it and get a graduate degree after college. I feel like it has become a part of my life, and I don't think I am stopping anytime soon.
The opening reception for the 2016 International Juried Exhibition will be held 5:00 p.m.-7:00 p.m. in the CPA gallery at the Sunset Center, Ninth Avenue and San Carlos Street, Carmel. The reception will be preceded by a lecture by Lehtinen at 4:00 p.m. in Sunset Center's Carpenter Hall.
Val Gonzalez Villarreal '17 with teachers Michelle Avery, left, and Claire Lerner.