We all work in unique ways. Observing an artist’s process of creation can provide as much inspiration as the work itself. Denisse shares her creative practice, from preparation and packing to shooting.
Words and Photography by Denisse Ariana Pérez
When I receive a brief from a client, the first thing I do is take notes. I work as a copywriter and communication strategist as well as a photographer, so my brain likes and needs to draw some structure before diving into intuitive creation.
Once I translate what the brief means to me, the elements that stick out and the angles I’d like to focus on, I then sketch out some initial ideas. I also like to look at what the client has created in the past, to see what I could bring to the table that feels different and that might be missing from their existing repertoire. During this process, I also look for references from other artists who have covered that same subject as inspiration.
Music is extremely important to me, so whenever I’m sketching, prepping, packing or thinking, I have music playing in the background. I love jazz, blues, and soul music. Matthew Halsall’s Weekly Meditations playlist on Spotify has become musical holy water for me — I listen to it almost on a daily basis. Also, anything from Kamasi Washington is magic for the heart.
When I’m actually shooting, I don’t always play music because I like to really connect with my subjects. A lot of times I end up guiding them into some breathwork, or connecting to the natural sounds around us if we find ourselves in nature. If I do play music while shooting, it would probably be along the lines of Aretha Franklin, who’s the soulful Queen of my life.
In terms of gear, I mostly shoot with my analog cameras. My Nikon F2 is my absolute best friend. I always bring two of them to a shoot. I keep one with a 50mm lens and the other with a 35mm one to avoid switching lenses too often while shooting. Here’s everything I bring:
1. Digital camera Canon 5D Mark II and Canon 40mm and 50mm lenses
2. Analog camera Nikon F2 (the camera I mostly use) and NIKKOR 35mm lenses
3. Analog camera Olympus Mju I (I use this camera for more candid moments or when I want to be faster in the presence of a fleeting moment, or whenever I want to use a simple flash)
4. Sekonic light meter
5. Apple MacBook Pro
6. iPhone 12
7. Notebook where I write and sketch out ideas, thoughts and draw compositions I envision
8. My favorite films, Fujifilm 200C, Superia 400, and Pro 400H
I’m a very intuitive photographer and I like to create movement with my subjects, so I like to be ready to shoot whenever I find an expression I’m drawn to and avoid wasting time interrupting the moment by switching lenses. If I’m not entirely sure about a specific frame, I like to take a photo of the scene with my phone to have a visual reference of it and see if it’s worth photographing or not. That’s the thing I love about analog photography; every frame matters, so you must be thoughtful of what’s worth pressing the shutter button for.
My other best friend in terms of gear would be my Urth camera strap, backpack and pouch. The design is so smart and thoughtful. Every single pocket and compartment has a purpose. And for someone like me who needs to store rolls of film, memory cards, batteries, lenses, filters and notebooks when I head to a shoot, it’s incredibly helpful. The design allows me to compartmentalize all my gear and prevents organizational chaos when I’m in a rush and need to multitask while shooting.
Another major bonus for me is that the design feels very supportive for my spine. I’ve had some back problems in the past and the ergonomic design of the bag has truly helped me in this regard. The weight of the bag feels equally distributed through my shoulders, back, and hips, while the cushioned straps are gentle on my shoulders and neck. If you’re carrying multiple heavy analog cameras, this makes all the difference in the world.