In Karen De La Fuente's world, clouds of smoke artfully drape her subjects, silhouettes dance against a spectrum of colors, and landscapes transform into surreal snapshots. As a moto, music, and travel photographer for almost 8 years now, she has mastered the use of colors and lighting — manipulating them in such a way that every moment becomes more cinematic. But aside from her skill and talent, we think it is her creative instinct and artistic sensibilities that influence her compelling photographs. She describes herself as a tiny rocket, "forever fascinated by sounds, vision, and space oddities." Get to know more about Karen in this quick interview.
What inspired you to pursue photography after your degree in Psychology?
I think a lot of it came from my fascination with observing movement in live music. A lot of times when I’m shooting I look for patterns and recurring behaviour, realizing I could capture these through photography. It was this, coupled with my addiction to watching live shows and listening to new music, that made me decide to go into photography. Picking up a camera and capturing stills of moving things made me see a world bigger than myself and my life.
As a full-time photographer, what's a day like for you? Do you have a routine, a habit, or a ritual to start the day with?
Preparing for shoots usually start the night before, so I’d make sure my equipment, shot list, batteries!! are all ready before shooting days. Sometimes my shoots stretch to 20hours+ and end at daytime (especially with gigs and production shoots) so I make sure to be prepared mentally and physically. Because my brain can get overwhelmed by random ideas during shoots, I make sure to have the day + shotlist organized before even starting. Three deep breaths facing a wall before I start anything.
How would you describe your visual style?
All my shoots, music and travel ones especially, vary in editing depending on how I feel at that moment. So visually, I’d say it’s a lot of experimenting on colors & shadows that fill up a frame.
How does your degree help you when you're taking photographs?
As a psychology major, I think photography is more an extension of my degree in terms of me seeing the world and interacting with people. I've been trained in psychology to recognize behavioral patterns and mental processes to understand my surroundings - which is, I guess, why a lot of people note that my photos feel like visual observations / with a very behind-the-scenes framework.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a photographer in the Philippines?
I think I could say that the creatives/arts/music scene in Manila and other parts of the Philippines is rich and thriving. I’ve met so many great and talented artists from different cities. Cities that have built small art communities helping artists to grow, at that. Only that, being a creative in a country like ours isn’t as glamorous and deemed as important as other professions. Being a photographer here usually meant you should be juggling many other jobs/sidelines to get by.
Do you ever get creative block? How do you handle it?
Yes… I try to take in as much art as possible - different mediums of visual art, music, performance art, and so on. It’s more on removing myself from the visual styles I got used to and opening up to different modes of expression.
What are your favorite projects so far?
I’d say it’s the moto races/rides I’ve shot for - completely different landscapes and subjects from what I’m used to. And of course the intimate music shows (Phoenix, SoFar Sounds, etc.) and big music festivals like Wanderland!
What are your dream projects?
Definitely to cover for Pitchfork or follow artists like Phoenix / Vulfpeck / Vampire Weekend on world tours & shoot for META - a moto publication.
Let's say you're allowed to put a couple of photos for a time capsule. Which photos would it be?
I think these say so much about a point in my life that I felt both at lost and at home at the same time.
What has inspired you recently?
Definitely tide/edit’s All My Friends … and during their Japan tour we met bands like loqto, e;in, Paranoid Void, & Agatha! The National’s I Am Easy To Find, Carly Rae’s Dedicated, recently also got hold of a copy of Vivian Maier: Street Photographer & Tetsunori Tawaraya’s artworks.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue photography?
Pick your camera up and show up. No matter how scared or anxiety-ridden you are, show up. There’s always something new to learn, there’s a world out there with stories waiting to be heard and to be told.