Interview with Beto Soto 01/11/2021
Beto Soto is an artist, youth advocate and educator. His ongoing project Undocuqueer shines a spotlight on LGBTQ Undocumented Americans living in San Diego, California. Through his portraiture, and use of lighting and props, Soto is able to create mystical landscapes that often portray his subjects as surreal. He is able to make his subjects radiate with confidence and perseverance. It is the hope of Soto to elevate the voices of this community, to advocate for himself, and others like him that strive to be visible, treated with equality and respect. Undocuqueer has been exhibited at the San Diego Museum of Photographic Arts, and Soto’s works have also been seen locally at Centro Cultural de la Raza, San Diego History Center and along the San Ysidro border at The Front Gallery.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently working on creating a bi-monthly photo zine titled “FLAMBOYANT.” The first issue focuses on individual relationships with the word “flamboyant,” from San Diego Locals. This first topic also highlights how the word has been used to describe us, queer folks. Inspiration for this photo zine has come from queer photographers and creators who have documented their communities throughout the decades. For me, seeing their work and exploring and learning from the past has been vital to understanding my queer identity. One of my goals for this zine is to be able to include other creators and voices from our community. I hope with this photo zine project I am able to provide similar inspiration for the current and future generations.
How has this pandemic affected or shifted your practice/changed your projects?
The Covid-19 pandemic has hit me hard if I am being honest. At the start of the pandemic, I was already struggling to stay afloat with survival needs. Then this came into our lives. I felt very vulnerable. I gained employment at a discount store and worked in several positions to be able to pay bills. I was not creating for a while through 2020. Photography is a very intimate art form, it requires you to be in person and move around in the space. Four months into the pandemic. I started to discuss ways to create photos safely with those who have participated in the “FLAMBOYANT” series. We followed all of the covid19 protocol and worked fast. Along with this personal project, I also work with The AjA Project. Through them, I learned ways to be able to continue working as an artist online. My community has supported and encouraged me to continue creating.
What has your journey been like as an artist or creative person?
To say that being an artist is easy and easy money is a lie. My journey has been rough but I would not have it any other way. I first dabbled in art making in high school. As an undocumented person this became my pathway into self employment. Classmates saw my interest in photography and would hire me to photograph family events. Through high school, I met The AjA Project and with them I saw a way to create artwork with photography. I have learned so much from making mistakes, projects not following through, and not having enough time. Bottom line is that we have to survive and sometimes creating art does not pay all the bills. Personally in my journey, I have had to juggle a day job, projects and photography clients. Art making has been a way of survival since starting my young adult life but now it is also a way to create connection and uplift those in my communities.
Do you have any tips for up-and-coming, or rising artists/creatives?
I would say, keep creating. It is so cliche to say that but it is true, keep creating! Whether that’s painting, photography, filming, keep creating. Also keep learning! Artists do not evolve unless they are constantly learning and observing. I am still learning and observing. This journey is long but so fulfilling.
You can find Beto online: betosotophoto.com