Featured Interviews Photography

IPaintMyMind Exclusive Interview: Abel Arciniega of Tequila Graphics Photo & Design

Written by:
Evan La Ruffa
Aug 02, 2012

Abel Arciniega can shoot it all. His Chicago-based Tequila Graphics Photo & Design imprint is a compendium of talents he’s honed behind a camera lens.  A painter and illustrator “by birth” and now an accomplished photographer with a CV that speaks for itself, Abel has truly followed his bliss. He’s put in the work, met the deadlines, and now his photography is featured by some weighty publications. His keen sense of balance & proportion teams up with his ability to comunicate character. Whether in the mayor’s face, front row at a Cee Lo show, or cataloguing social movements in Chicago’s streets, Mr. Arciniega has the deft touch every thoughtful person possesses; a way of being that facilitates comfort and lets in light. The focus of a pro.

We’re happy to say he’ll be shooting Lollapalooza 2012 for us this weekend, so look for Abel’s shots on IPaintMyMind. For the time being, we dissect the pixels in Abel’s brain and serve you up a slice.

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IPMM: Abel! What’s up brother… lets start from the beginning… how’d you get into photography?

AA: What up IPMM. Thanx for reaching out and letting me be part of this dope site. I always love to share the stage with other great creatives and this site def has many of them. My story isn’t the typical “I picked up my first camera when I was 5 years-old,” kinda thing. I’m actually a painter and illustrator by birth. I came out the womb with a paintbrush and a pencil. I got into photography my last year at Columbia College and fell in love with it. I started working at “Exito”, part of the Chicago Tribune, right after college and got a chance to shoot small things here and there. As the years went by, I was given bigger assignments and decided to go hard with it and make it a career.

IPMM: What was your first photo shoot like? Nerves at all?

AA: It was scary. I was so concerned with making great photos, that I lost the connection with my subject, and to me connecting with the subject is by far the most important thing when doing editorial work. If the subject isn’t on the same page with you, the photos will portray that.

IPMM: You and I have chatted about the difficulty yet massive fun involved with shooting concerts. The lighting is obviously the main issue, but what else do you find challenging about it?

AA: As you mentioned, lighting is the most challenging part. I also think that coming out of the venue with a unique shot is very important. If you have 15-20 shooters in the pit, how are you going to make your pics stand out? Finding a good angle is important. Most shooters jump right in front of the action, I like to stay on the corners and shoot from there. I do my research and find out if the artist holds the mic on his left or right hand and go the opposite way. A lot of shooters don’t do the extra little research that will make the difference in a full photo pit.

IPMM: What makes shooting concerts so much fun for you?

AA: Man, you’re given an opportunity to experience front row what these artists have dedicated their lives to. To able to see that so close is amazing. You can see the sweat and passion in front of you. You’re capturing these guys in their element.

IPMM: You also do editorial work for newspapers and the like… What publications have you worked for up until this point?

AA: Editorial work is a whole other animal. You are let into everyday peoples lives to document their stories. I love doing this type of work. I have shot for HOY, Univision, Cafe Magazine, EXTRA and New Futuro to name a few of the bigger ones.

IPMM: Working with editors and fitting your shots to the story is one thing, but with fashion or style shots, there seems to be a little more creative control on your end. When you have that control, what do you think typifies your point of view photographically?

AA: I love doing dramatic light with a ton of negative space. I think because of my work over the years in newspaper and magazine, I’ve learned not to be afraid of negative space. This negative space in editorial work was used for headlines and readouts, unlike in my personal work where the negative space is just part of my composition.

IPMM: What photographers do you look to, not only for creative inspiration, but for the bigger ideas behind what makes a good photograph?

AA: I was never one to follow any shooters. I really like the work of Chase Jarvis but again when I look at other shooters work, I step out of my “I’m a photographer” role, and just appreciate it as a non-photographer would. I think being too critical kills the whole experience.

IPMM: Do you have a recommendation for us as far as a top notch photography book? You know, something for the coffee table…

AA: Not really, I tend to like one thing for a bit and move on, I guess it’s the Gemini in me. I would suggest a chess board with a good bottle of Cognac on the coffee table.

IPMM: (Laughs) Good call! How do you go about staying on the cutting edge from an ideas point of view?

AA: There’s so much happening around us that it’s hard NOT to be on top of things. Going out to different neighborhoods and checking out how people are doing things in their hoods is always inspiring to me. Chicago has so many dope hoods that it’ll be impossible to run out of ideas.

IPMM: And your bro, Max Arciniega, is out in LA acting and making music, having appeared as Krazy 8 in Breaking Bad. What have you learned from him as far as making a living being creative?

AA: My carnal is a go-getter. He’s really made me proud. I’ve not only seen him grow as my lil bro but as an artist and musician. The guy never stops and that is something I love. Every audition is a new opportunity, as he says.

IPMM: Whose photography work should IPMM readers google right now?

AA: Mine, www.tequilagraphics.com.  Holla!

IPMM: Lol, dope! Thanks Abel!

Tequila Photo & Design

Written by:
Evan La Ruffa
Aug 02, 2012

tags: breaking bad, cee lo, chicago tribune, daniiel miles, Exito, Hoy, max arciniega, plaga, rahm emmanuel, shakira, tequila photo & design