Raymond Alva unveiled his first ever solo photo exhibition, “Finding Beauty” on Jan. 18 at a California Baptist University studio space. Alva is a sophomore photography major at CBU who has been involved with photography since he was a freshman in high school.
Alva said he categorizes his photography style as “experimental portraiture” and has recently been working mainly in the music industry, from tour photos to album covers and promos.
Alva’s focus and direction has been developing over his years at CBU.
“What I really want to do, especially after the exhibition, is gallery shows,” Alva said. “That is where my work definitely lives and I hope to do more of those in the future.”
The start of this change of direction and focus in Alva’s work was also inspired by the classes ‘History of Photography’ and ‘Fine Art Photography’ with assistant professor of photography Tamara Cedré.
“Those two classes really shaped my mind of how photography is an art and how much power it has,” Alva said. “And if you have a gift and God has given you the ability to take photos, I feel that you are obligated to make something meaningful and use it for his glory.”
Someone who really helped Alva have this opportunity of a solo exhibition, as well as its execution, was Christopher Kern, photography program lead and assistant professor of photography. Alva said he would not have been able to do the solo exhibition without him.
“The blessing is Raymond’s ambition and drive that he has to create and share,” Kern said.
Alva is also in a cohort in the photography program whose members Kern said bring a new energy to the program.
Alva said he used to be interested in fashion photography but quickly realized that was not for him.
“My reasons for sticking with photography before CBU are a lot different from why I stick to it now,” Alva said. “Before CBU, my goal with photography was to take cool-looking photos, and now I want to take meaningful photos. I want to showcase stuff that actually means something, hopefully using this to invite people to think about the topic at hand or about themselves.”
Alva’s pieces in the exhibition deal with the concept of abstractness and distortion.
“The concept of distorting beauty and trying to take obvious beauty and distort it and still see that it is beautiful. That’s where the idea of ‘Finding Beauty’ came from, how it is perceived and defined and who defines it,” Alva said. “What I find interesting is how true that is about the gospel and what Jesus did. Jesus loves us, even in our brokenness he says that we are beautiful. So, who is the fashion industry to say what is beautiful and what is not? That’s God, and he says we are all beautiful.”
The photos displayed at Alva’s exhibition were all abstract and distorted portraits that did not fit into these constraints that the fashion industry and mainstream portraiture puts on the idea of beauty.
The photos were distorted using sheets of Mylar, a reflective thin layer of aluminum. The same Mylar was placed in the middle of the room of the exhibition so that viewers could have the freedom to distort their image in the same way and connect with the art.
Alva intentionally did not release his work on Instagram or social media prior to the event.
David Ardil, sophomore photography major and friend of Alva, said, “He wanted to control the environment these photos were seen and experienced in. He didn’t want Instagram to be the first place he presented them.”
Students can view more of Alva’s work on his Instagram @rapberry as well as his website raymondalva.com. Alva said he hopes to do more gallery shows in the future and wants readers to know that any support is welcome.