Artist talk: William Camargo

Artist William Camargo stands in front of two of his works.


On Oct. 12, photographer William Camargo visited UW-Parkside for an artist talk and reception, centered on his work We Fed Them Cactus, being presented in UW-Parkside’s Mathis gallery. Camargo’s exhibition began Sept 1 and ended Oct 17. Growing up in Anaheim, CA, to the parents of Mexican immigrants who came to America in the early 80’s, Camargo has drawn a lot of inspiration from the culture he grew up in. Disneyland in CA was but blocks away from Camargo’s childhood home and often was looked at as a symbol of hypocrisy by the community. Based on Disney’s claim to be “the happiest place on earth”, this idea of this divide cross culturally was another strong inspirational factor in Camargo’s latest work.


Soon after graduating college with a degree in creative photography and a minor in Chicano studies, Camargo travelled to Chicago finding work as a photojournalist in the Chicago metropolitan area for close to seven years. As of this last year, Camargo left work as a photojournalist to pursue the more creative side of his photography. Camargo’s work has taken him to many different parts of the globe including Mexico, and Central America. The stories and photographs he obtained from these journeys are invaluable to his work. We Fed Them Cactus has been centered on portraits of Latino Americans and photos of their everyday environments. Camargo goes on to say he would like to be, “not just an artist…but part of the community.”

The photographed

Camargo focused We Fed Them Cactus around mostly portraits, including those of his family, people of his community in Anaheim, inner city Chicago, as well as Guatemala and Mexico. In addition to his portraits, Camargo shoots scenes of everyday life and settings in Latino culture spanning from southern CA and Mexico to Chicago. One photograph of a person’s refrigerator, its contents mostly those you would see in Latino household, were intermingled with items typical of any Americans’ fridge. Camargo took this piece as a way to illustrate the “togetherness” or the closeness cultures experience when residing next to each other. Camargo hopes that through his work he will “elevate Mexican culture in an artistic context”, while also bringing the Chicano culture into the aesthetic of the art world.  


Camargo hopes that his work will be a way for more people to experience or understand a culture and way of life he grew up in. In this way Camargo challenges social norms, especially those contained in the artistic world. His focus tends to stay on “those in the shadows”, or those who sometimes fall into the background of the rest of the world, specifically within the American-Latino community. Some of his greatest inspirations have arose from photographs of demonstrations during the Civil Rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s. In this way, Camargo hopes to express a message to his audience, exemplifying the lives and communities of Latinos in America and how they can be divided by race and wealth, one in which he himself grew up in.  

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