Kar Gar on Photographing ArtOfficial and Afrobeta, and Her Love of Sour Cream
|Photo by Martha Ramirez, UDS Photo|
|Karla Garcia AKA Kar Gar|
She embodies the spirit of new Miami. A creative revolutionary armed with a digital camera and a smile bright enough to light up a photo shoot. Over the weekend we met for lunch at Lime's Midtown location and discussed everything from Annie Leibovitz, to art direction, to her affinity for sour cream.
New Times: When did you realize you wanted to be a photographer?
Karla Garcia: Documenting things has always been important to me. In elementary school I was always the dorky kid with a disposable Kodak on field trips or field days, whatever. A few years ago, I was going through some personal shit and really started thinking, what do I want to do for me? I bought a DSLR, a Canon Rebel, and started shooting everything. The more comfortable I became with the camera, the more people started saying, "you really know what you're doing. This is some good stuff."
How did you get started shooting music?
I'm one of those people that think anything can happen if you want it to. I've always been passionate about music and the Miami music scene. By coincidence, a friend of mine knew some guys in ArtOfficial, and he put me in contact with them. A few weeks later they became the first band I shot.
How did the idea to shoot ArtOfficial at an airplane hangar come about?
(Laughs) I was just starting out, but they thought I was serious shit. I made a list of possible locations we could shoot at and they were super impressed by the idea of an airplane hangar. They were like, "you could really do that?" Yeah, my boss at the time owned a hangar with her husband. I asked if I could use it for a photo shoot and the band showed up ready to go with scarves and skateboards, super spiffed up. It was great.
In addition to being a photographer, you are quite the art director. You have incorporated Kermit the Frog and a whole bunch of creepy toys in some of your photo shoots. Is the set-up half the fun?
(Laughs) I really like setting up the shot but letting the bands be themselves when I'm shooting. Cuci (Amador), of Afrobeta, came up with the toy concept two weeks after I met them. She had all the stuffed animals and dolls we used in the shoot stored away at her mother's house, and I found an old throw blanket and bed frame at a thrift store to use as the background. I borrowed some Sesame Street records from a friend and tossed the toys around Cuci and Tony (Smurfio), and it turned out to be a pretty cool picture.
Artistically, who has been your biggest influence?
If anybody has had an influence on why I started shooting music and musicians, it's Annie Leibovitz, and in particular, the book, Annie Leibovitz: American Music. She's great at capturing the human side of celebrity, the person and not the musician.
You are working on a new project called "Family Values," where you take old family portraits and give them a new, contemporary twist. How did the idea come about??
My mom has these old boxes of black and white family portraits from Cuba and I've always thought they were really cool. She used to wear bandanas in her hair and my dad dressed like Paul McCartney. They had such cool style that seemed super thought out, but it wasn't, it was just the way they dressed. Five months ago, I got the idea to recreate these photos with random people. I'm not looking for mom and dad look-alikes, rather people that represent individuality.
Where do you see yourself in five years??
Wait. Can I take your sour cream? I love sour cream.
Really? That's disgusting, it's all you. Five years, where do you see yourself?
Yes! I hope to be on the map as a photographer people contact when they want to brand themselves. I want to be taken seriously in music and editorial stuff. I don't want a part-time job to fuel my vice; I want people to say, "Karla the photographer? Yeah, she's dope."
For more information about Kar Gar's work, visit www.kargarphotography.com.