We had the good fortune of connecting with Ángel Enrique Valentín and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Ángel Enrique, career-wise, where do you want to be in the end?
At this point in my career I want to be able to put all my professional and life experiences to work back home in Puerto Rico. I have lived in South Florida almost 34 years, with short stops in Ohio and Tennessee, in what was supposed to be a two year plan. When I moved to Florida to attend the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, I hoped to be able to return to Puerto Rico and work as a photojournalist. One internship led to another and then another and then a staff job. That return home plan kept getting pushed back. Fast forward to 34 years later and stints as a staff photographer with The Miami Herald and The Sun Sentinel, two times as a Pulitzer Prize finalist (one with the Herald: Hurricane Andrew and with the Sentinel: Aids in the Caribbean project), and I feel like I’m more than ready to find and tell stories of my people in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean/Latin America region. I started my freelance career after a short lived job as a photo director in a publication in Puerto Rico which didn’t go well but helped me realize I still have a huge desire to tell stories in my country. As an independent photographer the last 13 years I’ve had to evolve into a more rounded image maker. I’ve implemented some video, drone work and more importantly portraiture with on location lighting. I think mixing those technical skills with my experience will work in my favor when finding stories and documenting them and finally sharing them with a wider audience. That’s how I would like to round up up my career. This is a really exciting new chapter in my life and journey.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am basically an old school photojournalist in the sense that I always try to keep the visuals true to the subject or place and their story. I never try to influence or alter a situation for aesthetics. That mold has been hard to break out of when I shoot commercial or advertising work where there is freedom to work on concepts and create situations. Art direction plays a huge role in helping negotiate that. Even though my work is mostly editorial and sometimes “advertorial”, I think I am hired because my subjects look relaxed and comfortable in the environment they are photographed. Early in my newspaper career a photo editor was very demeaning and almost broke me with her words. She told me I was a terrible photographer and I should consider a different career. I was very demoralized. I knew I wasn’t very good but I also knew the work ethic that I’ve always had. I needed a chance to prove myself. Took me a while but I’m finally comfortable with what I do and what I’m providing to my clients. I want clients to be happy but I know that if I’m satisfied they will be too. My bar is very high and I’ve had great mentoring. Having a lot of newspaper experience and having worked alongside some of the best in the business is the best school imaginable.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
My list of must go to places is not long or fancy. We also frequent the same spots consistently. People watching is huge for me so a place like Wynwood in Miami is a must go. In there our bar is The Wood Tavern where we’ve been going shortly after it opened. There are other places in Little Havana that we like like Ball and Chain, the Puerto Rican restaurant Mofongos. Further South in the Kendall area of Miami is another amazing Puerto Rican restaurant called Tacos and Tattoos. In South Beach you have to go to the Mac’s Deuce Bar, one of the oldest dive bars in South Florida. The PAMM (Perez Art Museum) is a must as well as the Planetarium next to it. In Little Haiti, The MUCE (Miami Urban Contemporary Experience) is a Black Centric project. Also in Little Haiti is Bon Gout, a BBQ joint with a Haitian flair is fantastic. La Camaronera in Little Havana has fresh seafood and is run by a great family. Sparky’s Roadhouse BBQ in downtown Miami. Cafe 27 in West Broward County is a biker bar for a change of pace. Those are the spots we like. There are others but those are the main ones.

Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
IPC Art space in Miami’s Little Haiti community is run by Haitian American photographer Carl Juste. The primary goal of IPC ArtSpace is to nurture connections between and among Haitian and Latin American artists and communities, and to create an intersection between these communities and our organizational partners.
https://irisphotocollective.com/artspace/

MUCE, Miami Urban Contemporary Experience, founded by Bart and Ashlee is a space where artists of color get to learn, show and develop their craft.
https://www.muce305.org

Website: www.angelvalentin.com
Instagram: @angelevalentin @elfotorican @therealfotorican

Image Credits
Ángel Enrique Valentín

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