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Yulissa Benitez Amaro, often called Yu-lez is from from Queens, New york. A photographer that crosses over design and image making into her work. She has been shooting since she was 15. It happened randomly for her when she applied to an old printing high school that focused on visual arts such as design and photo. That’s where she began to learn everything that she knows now.
She started with black and white film photography but now dabbles in both film and digital, colour and mono. Her work is based on moods, she work can often give off aesthetics from a different era of time because through colour, texture styles, and lighting styles.
She works mainly photographing people, often working with musicians and garment designers, showing their work through her eyes.
While she was in high school the internet became a place where she would showcase her photographs, it was around the time when Instagram was on the rise, with all of the “pleasingly aesthetic styled photos” and Tumblr was around too.
As a teenager, of course, she was inspired. It was a time where she began to dive into things that interested her and come out of her shell. Music was a big part of it, running around going to shows and parties, becoming social and growing with scenes.
In NY, everyone is always down and about to get their photo taken wherever it is that you go. As far as her photo career goes, she never initially planned on being a photographer for this long but turns out its a true passion and calling for Yulissa.
Where are you from and where are you based now? Can you tell us something about both?
I am from Mexico but I’ve been living in Queens, NY 97% of my life. I still live in Queens, but I work in Brooklyn — my studio is there, my job, and it’s where I hang out the most. I don’t get to visit Mexico as often as I’d like, but when I do I always wish to stay. At least a little longer than intended. The atmosphere is amazing, it holds so much beauty. The people are kind, the culture is so rich and everyone is so proud of it. I have cousins my age living in CDMX, I plan on living there for at least half a year, just to fully experience it cause I feel like I never got to since I moved at such a young age. NYC is home though, I love it here. I often think about how thankful I am that my family took the chance to move here. They’ve been here since the 80s. Nyc is definitely a tough ass city to grow up in but wouldn’t trade it for anywhere else. It’s given me the life I live, all the opportunities I’ve gotten. Couldn’t ask for more.
How did your photographic journey start?
I was always a fan of nice pictures and I always wished to be someone to make them. Here in NYC we have specialized schools that offer programs, they’re all free but you must audition so it’s kind of competitive. I kind of took a chance and possibly the easy route and got lucky. I think I applied to only 1 random ass visual arts school and got in. Best decision, that school had some badass kids but we all connected through art. We all took photos of each other and learned how to develop our own film, edit, and so much more. I had some of the greatest photography teachers, they all really motivated me. I got to learn mostly everything I know now from them. I took it easy right after I graduated because of college and work, but got right back to it like 3 years ago. Now here I am, still going, and I recently also got signed. So there’s so much more to go from here.
Tell us more about your creative process…
My creative process involves a lot of “pushing myself”, I can be a huge procrastinator, especially when I have so many ideas. Sometimes I don’t know where to start. But it usually starts with a feeling, and I go from there. If I’m shooting something that’s preplanned I try to come up with lighting techniques and poses. Besides that, for editing I never really know where to go. I’ll just open an image and start editing, I’ll keep editing until I’m finally happy with the image or sometimes I’ll do some more— like stitching, sewing, burning, scanning!
What do you like to experiment and play with in your art?
I love playing around with lighting, I think lighting is one of the best ways to interpret moods. I like to experiment with acting out specific scenarios. I’ll tell whoever I’m photographing to pretend, just so I can get a more genuine expression.
Which is the main awareness that these two past years bring you?
A lot has happened these past 2 years. Good and bad. I became more aware of how much I needed to learn how to be alone. That has helped me mature so much. I think I’m almost a full grown adult now haha. I also became super aware of how important time is, in many scenarios. I learned to value it, trust it. With myself, with other people. With the things that I am doing and the things that I want. It’s made me patient, and more grateful.
A project making you proud and motivated;
I’m currently planning on working on a few short films. Most of them are focused on visuals and music. I’m excited, I get to work with multiple talents. I have so many musician friends I plan on incorporating for scores. It’s something new, I’ve always wanted to dip my toes into video.
Could you tell us about the “Faces” series?
Faces is an ongoing series that began around 2020. I’ve always liked the simplicity of passport photos so I thought it’d be fun to make something similar styled just in a collage of people I’ve photographed throughout the years. It’s also kind of like a memory log, it’s cool to see all the different faces I’ve photographed laid out all together. I’m currently working on part 3 and 4.
3 music albums obsessing you right now?
I’ve been listening to “I Let It in and It Took Everything’ by Loathe. I recently started listening to them. They’re so good, they fit the winter mood perfectly. I’ve also been listening to “Lovers Rock’ by Sade, a classic. Andddd ‘Dummy” by Portishead, it’s one of my go to albums.
I plan on releasing a photo book this spring of 2022. Also possibly doing a solo show. I can be so shy when it comes to displaying my work. I need to work on that. I want to travel more, photograph people in different cities and work with other artists. There’s so much I want to do!
Where can we find you online?
I mainly use Instagram for social media, my handle is @yu.lez
And I have a website yulissabenitez.com