Joana Toro’s journey as a photographer has been a long and winding one filled with many ups and downs. When she stumbled upon photography, almost by chance, Joana discovered she had a natural talent. Eventually, this led her to work for major magazines and newspapers in her home country of Colombia. She was well-known and had plenty of work, but wanted to take her craft even further.
With a desire to progress further than was possible back home, Joana decided to immigrate to the US. But when she moved to New York to pursue her passion, Joana suddenly found herself demoted from a nationally respected photographer to just another face in the crowd and without much command over the English language, work opportunities became scarce. Determined to stick it out, she began working in Times Square, accepting donations for photos of her in her Hello Kitty costume. Thus was born a stunning project called “I Am Hello Kitty.” This project lays bare what it means to be an immigrant – with all of the challenges, sorrows, hopes and joys that entails.
But that’s not all we talked about. Joana told us about several of her projects that reveal lesser known peoples, cultures and aspects of the beautiful country of Colombia, which she describes as countless smaller countries within a whole. We also spent some time exploring her current work, work that revolves around some pretty heavy issues including identity, immigration and human rights.
Not only does Joana capture these issues, and the people affected by them, she creates images that bring the issues home and make viewers feel like they are intimately involved in them. In addition, she does so with a positive attitude, even when revealing injustices or unresolved issues. She believes that if we bring these issue to the forefront, we will be forced to talk about them and ultimately, work to find and implement solutions.
It may seem like I’ve told the given away all the good stuff right here in this intro, but believe me, there is much, much more to find out from Joana herself. Click the audio player below to hear our conversation with Joana with your own two ears: