Santiago Vanegas


All images are copyrighted and strictly for educational and viewing purposes.


July 2006

Tell us a little bit about your background? Where are you from originally?

I was born in Philadelphia and then moved back and forth between the USA and my native country, Colombia, between 1974 and 1987. Then, I stayed in Colombia for the next 14 years. My last few years in Bogota were spent completing my BA in advertising. In 2001, I came to San Francisco to continue my photography career and to attend the Academy of Art University’s MFA photo program.

Who were your main influences growing up?

On a personal level, strong influences were my mother, a profound artist, my father’s photography, surrealist art, Latin American magic realism, music, and, definitely, movies. The fantasy of cinema has always been very inspiring to me.

There are many many many other influences. And not just photographers, musicians, painters, film makers – all art forms. As for photographers, John Paul Caponigro, Andreas Gursky, Bill Henson, Gregory Crewdson, Dan Holdsworth, Richard Misrach to name a few. It’s hard to describe how they inspire/influence my work.

Storm Thorgerson, album cover designer, is my greatest influence. All of these have a very interesting relationship with reality and human perception, which is a lot of what my own work is about; the relationship between reality and perception. Their imagery has a dreamlike feel to it. They challenge the way we perceive things in our everyday life and show the viewer questions through the use of real physical  things (not fantasy). Music also has a tremendous influence on my work. I am constantly searching for parallels between sound and images, music and visual art.

How did you become a photographer?

It’s a combination of several things. My mother is an artist. I somehow have always been involved in her work in some way. My father on the other hand, had a very cool Pentax Spotmatic that he shot with extensively in the past. He actually photographed my entire birth with that camera. And along with that camera was (and still is) a wonderful collection of Time-Life books about photography. So there was the camera, the information, and the inspiration. I felt right at home expressing myself through images. I guess my first attraction to it was that I could say something without saying (verbally) anything. By the end of high school I was shooting plenty of film. Before completing my BA in Advertising in Bogota, Colombia, I was shooting extensively for many national magazines. Advertising was not for me; photography was and still is.

Where do you get your inspirational/creative ideas?

I am open to inspiration in everyday life events, film, dreams, world events, world conditions, music, other visual artists, etc. Light is a tremendous source of inspiration, especially when shooting at night. Light is what I look for. My images are about the relationship between reality and perception. When an image has completed its journey from my head onto a photographic print, it will then be perceived by a viewer. My hope is that the nature of the image will then make the person question their own perception of certain things. Those “things” don’t necessarily have to be those found in my images. The “things” can be anything that the viewer has experienced in their own lifetime. What I’m trying to say is, “what is in a person’s head can be, or already is”. What is in my head and can be. I see my work  as stream of consciousness imaging. It’s all just photographic proof of what’s in my head. In some way it could be called “documentary photography”.

What has been the most rewarding and challenging project you have worked on?

My most challenging and rewarding project has probably been my work in Surface Magazine’s 2002 Avant Guardian contest. Challenging, because I had never done a real fashion photo shoot for such a high profile magazine. Plus the Avant Guardian is such a big deal. There were very high expectations from the editors, the audience, and myself. The pressure was high knowing that this was going to be a huge “break” for me. Rewarding because I got tons of exposure. Being featured in Surface really put me on the map. The exposure that I got from Surface has led to many more opportunities in my career.

From your portfolio, what is your favorite piece? Why?

It really depends a lot on the weather. Some days it’ll be one from the light ray series, another day it will be one from the airplane series, and some other day it can be one from the floating fabric series. It could tell you which one I fancy today, but tomorrow it’ll be a different one. However, all of my #1s have one thing in common. They all represent and/or exceed how I had pre-visualized the idea in my head. It’s when I feel I have accomplished with great fidelity in showing the viewer what is in my mind. Those are my #1s.

To see more of Santiago’s work, please visit: