Sal Rojas Interview about "The Third Root" Photo Gallery

Sal Rojas on Location in Guerrero, Mexico | Photo by Renzo Devia

How did you first learn about the Afro-Mexican population that is marginalized in certain areas of Mexico?

Sal Rojas: My best friend Renzo Devia, a Colombian New Yorker had mentioned years ago that he wanted to travel throughout Latin America to film the Afro-Latino struggle. His documentary film project is called “Afrolatinos – The Untaught Story”. The documentary is currently in production. When we talked about the Afro descendents currently living in Mexico he invited me on his journey so I could take photographs and experience their struggle for myself.

What was your intention for your "The Third Root" project?

Sal Rojas: The “The Third Root” was my third solo photography exhibit. My first exhibit was titled “Chicana Fotografia” and was held in Zaragoza, Spain. The photographs were all from the barrios of the Greater Los Angeles area which showed the Spaniards our Chicano lifestyle from my point of view. My second gallery was titled “El Mundo Es Un Barrio” and that took place in the city I was born in, East Los Angeles. The photographs I used for that show where based on my travels to cities like San Francisco, El Paso, Chicago, and Spanish Harlem and other places to show that our Latino-based neighborhoods are global.

For my third solo show titled “The Third Root” I wanted to show the Chicanos / Latinos the diversity of Mexico. A majority of Chicanos are unaware that Mexico has an Afro-Mestizo population. I took a more photojournalistic approach to the exhibit and wanted to show a side of Mexico that is ignored by traditional media. “The Third Root” was the last show to complete my trilogy.

Do you consider this work documentary photography?

Sal Rojas: Yes, I do… My favorite photographs are the ones you don’t plan. They find you. Many of the photos I used in “The Third Root” found me. I let the people and photographs come to me in an almost spiritual way, like it was destined.

Is there a particular reason for why you chose to show these photographs in color rather than black and white?

Sal Rojas: I respect black and white photographs and photographers, but I personally prefer color. When you take photos in color the lighting, composition and subject matter have to be a lot stronger than photos in black and white. I also feel that “la vida no es blanco y negro,” so that’s my philosophy when I take photos.

Are any of your photographs in "The Third Root" project constructed/composed or manipulated?

Sal Rojas: Not really, very minimal photoshop was used on the photographs you saw on-line. When I take a photo I try to do all the work when I’m taking the photo. I try my best to achieve the best results possible during the photo shoot so I won’t have to spend too much time on the computer fixing, adjusting, and cropping my photographs in post production.

Can you describe your experience in la Costa Chica?

Sal Rojas: It was one of the best experiences of my life. I learned so much in the two weeks I was there. I have so much respect for the Indigenous and Afromexicano communities of Mexico. I love Mexico and all the different cultures that make Mexico unique and I hope it reflects in my photography.

*This Interview was for a research paper for a college student taking a "Photography of Latin America" class at the University of Redlands in California.

These are some of the photographs from my "THE THIRD ROOT" Photography Collection | Calacas INC Santa Ana, California

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