Since he began the Photography Certificate program, Felix’s work has always stood out. The strong concepts and thoughtful commentary behind his images make for a powerful portfolio. We are thrilled to know that his time here has helped him grow as an artist, and appreciate his many contributions to the program, including several pieces in our 2015 Student Show. We spoke to Felix about his artistic development, his future goals, and why photography excites him.
Please tell us a little about yourself, and how you began your photography practice.
I lived in Colombia until I was 21 years old, when I obtained a 7 month student visa to go to the United Kingdom. After just a few months I realized I had fallen in love with the country and its multicultural and diverse people. In spite of the hard and low-paid work and the fact that I could not afford to continue with my higher education, I had found a new place to call home, where my sexual orientation was not a burden and I decided to stay. Almost ten years later and with a husband, I had the opportunity to come to Los Angeles, California. I started taking photography classes from the Certificate Program at UCLA Extension as a way to meet people and make new friends.
I was lucky to have Gareth Walsh as my first teacher in Photo I. He set my imagination free helping me understand that photography is the means by which I can express myself, but he also made very clear that it was not the only way. For him, the tools we used were not important, he was more interested in the idea behind each photograph. After Gareth, I took Photo II with George Simian, with whom I learnt the technical side of photography, his vast knowledge gave me great foundations. Then I took “History of Photography” with Richard Langendorf, where I got hooked into YouTube Photoshop tutorials to be able to render self-portraits that looked like the photographs taken by the masters. My imagination went wild and I realized I really enjoy the creative process.
I only have one class left to finish my Photography Certificate; however I will be taking more classes as UCLA develops the program. I have learnt many tools from each teacher I have had and I am grateful to each one of them. I am also thinking of taking a few classes for a second time as I am sure new teachers will give me more ideas. Most recently, I had an electronics class with Pete Hawkes; which although it is not featured as part of the program, it is accepted as part of the necessary credits for graduation. I also took Mentorship with Scott Hutchinson, the Program Director of the Visual Arts. Scott and Pete have helped me reshape my portfolio and have a clearer vision of what I would like my future to be.
Where does the inspiration for your projects come from?
What inspires me to produce work is a strange mixture between personal experiences and the social perception of popular issues. While talking about a topic or following news on social media outlets, an idea or question comes to mind. Getting ideas is not difficult, I am quite sociable by nature (thanks to my being Colombian), so I am in constant contact with people from many different places and backgrounds, who fill me with lots of questions and ideas. My challenge always is how to articulate those ideas, how to answer a question or interpret an argument visually. My advantage (if you can call it that) is that I do not have any formal art training, apart from the “Fine Art Photography” class I took from the certificate program. The execution of every idea is a possibility to learn something new; to explore identity; a way to create a performance to understand, for instance, why we act selfishly; to tell my relatives where I come from and a chance to acknowledge basic human shame and acceptance feelings.
For someone who is new to photography, what should they know about getting started?
I did not know much about any technical or artistic aspects of photography when I took my first class. I would not even say I had a passion for photography, but I had an open mind and the disposition to learn and work hard… I would suggest you take your first photography class with the same spirit. You will probably feel as lost as I did, but fear not as the program is structured to help you find your way, either commercial or artistic.
Is it important for you to have your work seen and shared by others? If so, how do you manage that?
It is very important indeed! My goal from very early in the program is to exhibit, to show my photographs, videos and installations to people. My website www.felixossa.com was crucial, although I only have a mobile version at the moment. It acts as my portfolio, thanks to it I can get in touch with people from different countries and try to arrange shows.
What are you working on now, and what are your long-term goals as an artist?
I am currently working on a three piece project exploring shame called “Hypersexuality”. It is a series of performances and installations that I am taking back to the city I was born in, Medellin, in Colombia. It is very personal but at the same time it is kind of universal since we all deal with shame at some point in our lives.
- The series start with a performance called “Closeness” which I created in “Wearable Computing”, the electronics class I took with Pete Hawkes.
- The second part. “Hypersexuality”, will be presented as an installation some months later. It was inspired by the “Portraiture” class I took with Van Ditthavong.
- The series will finish some time later with “Let Go!”, a performance inspired by the electronics class with Pete Hawkes.
It might sound ambitious, but my long term goal is to create pieces for galleries and public spaces, works that people can interact with.