Browse through @val.ok's Instagram and you'll notice a trend: her photography is framed by vibrant borders. Her ethereal portraits of people of all skin tones remain in their own realm, thin strips of scarlet and pastel pink against luscious green and orange backgrounds serve as a barrier between her art and outside influence, between the worlds she creates and the exterior world.
Though, once created, it is separated from it, Valeria's work is inspired by the world she lives in and how she relates to it. The bright colors of her Colombian childhood are apparent in her portraiture. Her experience as a Latina in America informs her style and creative philosophy. A lack of diversity in film and photography sparked her interest in the visual arts, and her work creatively fills that void.
The eighteen-year-old photographer has already been featured by Galore, garnered thousands of Instagram followers, and is a TargetTag creator. Humble yet confident, Valeria's work doesn't just show promise, it demonstrates a distinct sense of self that will no doubt manifest itself in hypnotic creations for years to come.
What work are you most proud of?
I'm proud of my first shoot "Unicos, Como la Flor" with Carson Zehner. Mostly because it was the first shoot [where] I realized I was naturally good at [photography] and people felt inspired by what I was creating.
What has been your biggest failure?
I don't think I consider anything I've done so far to be a failure. I think my biggest struggle is consistency and balancing my mental health and daily life with art. I wish I could just worry about taking photos.
Who do you think is the most creative person alive?
This is a tough one. I don't think I'm in any position to judge someone and label them the best creative right now. I think there's many talented people, so I don't think that there's just one.
What photographers are you inspired by?
I try to refrain from viewing others work, mainly because I don't want my natural creativity to change in any way. I don't know why, but I've never been one to obsessively admire celebrities, so I guess it's the same way with artists. I don't think I have anyone that I go to constantly to find inspiration from. I usually try to seek inspiration in other forms, such as individuals, scenery, architecture etc.
Do you think that once you're no longer a teen your work will change at all? If so, how?
For the most part, I don't think my message and visuals will change. I'm obviously going to go through a lot of different experiences as I grow older so I know there will be more I want to tell with my photos. My work will definitely mature and hopefully be more impactful. I'll probably also be more consistent and organized with certain aspects of my photos.
What do you think is the best part about being a teenager? What will you miss most?
The best part about being a teenager is being a part of this first generation, and having a voice and creativity that older people didn't have when they were younger. I'm changing the world, in a way, with art, by being someone Latinos can look up to in the art community. For me, the most interesting part about being a teen is seeing how fascinated adults are when I tell them about what I've accomplished so far. I think that's what I'll miss the most... the satisfaction of creating at such a young age and being praised for my ambitions.
Images used in collage via @val.ok