Stephanie Ayala, also known as Cherry or Cerezita, is a self-taught artist based in the Bronx of New York City. Focusing her work on community and spirituality, Cherry is dedicated to exploring and capturing the individual light within people close to her, as well as the collective light and spaces of her surroundings. She's always striving to grow her experiences and seek out every nuance of her artistic vision as a photographer.
Stephanie shared her series of photos taken on Lomography Color Negative 400 (120) film. She's here to tell us about her personal work and the stories behind the photos.
Hey Stephanie, welcome to the Lomography Magazine! Can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
I am Stephanie aka Cherry or Cerezita. Around 2016 and 2018 I was working in Lomography in their West 8th Street Location. That’s where my love for photography expanded and where I gained a strong community of film photographers that would inform each other to understand this medium to create images. Currently, I am living in New York City and working on finishing my first photo book!
What’s your relationship with film photography like? How did you get started and what is keeping you going?
When I was in high school, a student named Betzy handed me a piece of paper to sign up to be a part of the International Center Of Photography's Teen Academy. That’s where I started to learn about the darkroom and was shooting with a Pentax 35mm camera. Slowly the snowball started and I began using a Canon AE-1. I started to learn more about different film stocks, alternative processing, archiving images and everything that goes into making an image.
"What keeps me going in photography is knowing that my eye is very unique and that there are so many ways to get people to understand the world through my lens. There’s still much to improve in my photo work. Knowing that I have worked my way in understanding film photography for about 10 years now—that's what keeps me going."
So I want to see where life takes me and how I can continue to make images. Lately, I have been surprising myself more by working with my friends in the darkroom. It has brought me to think more about colors, light, and intentions, layering my work to create a beautiful image. I focus more on the process, think deeper, and seek something outside the lines of my path. As well, I want to keep on developing from who I was when I first started photographing. To see how I could really push myself to become a stronger, meaningful image creator. There’s so much to photography and I am surprised by my growth. I want to see more in this lifetime and capture it. Right now, I am looking to learn more about storytelling.
What are your creative inspirations?
My creative inspiration is the darkroom and being there has inspired me to keep on understanding my work in its different layers. The guys at Asuna Darkroom have really helped me with developing my work this year by pushing me to understand my negative. Looking at the colors of the image and talking more. There’s still so much to learn but to have their support has meant a lot to me. I have felt jaded with the overdose of images we see because of social media. It can be difficult to see and hear your own voice.
How would you describe your photography style?
My photography style is always developing. I'm not sure how to describe my style. I would love to hear what other people have to say.
Onto the photos, what’s the story behind them?
The photos of Washington Heights were taken in the summer of 2021. I walked around to see what captured my eye that day. I noticed the people in the streets and how they contributed to the community. The rags hanging from the gate were taken at the Snake Hill by Dyckman. What caught my eye was how they would hand wash rags every day that I would pass. I would notice how they would lay out the rags. I really wanted to showcase the work rather than them working.
Another one would be Relojes Raparacion Station that was also taken in Dyckman Street. I wanted to capture this work cause I thought about how this is rare work. What would we do with the knowledge he has to fix watches?
As well, the warm photos were of my really good friends Zen and Sunny. They are friends who I admire for all the healing work they have done for the community as well as within themselves. We wanted to create images that celebrate love by showing their essence of love.
What makes a photo stand out to you?
What makes a photo stand out to me is the energy of the photograph. You could tell when people are all following the same style in their images and who is truly capturing what they feel connected to.
What are your thoughts on the Lomography Color Negative 400 (120) film?
I always and forever love Lomography 400 films! I love the feeling of breaking open a box of film from them. It’s very nostalgic for me!
Is there anything new or different you hope to experiment in your photography?
I hope to experiment with telling more stories with eyes and body movements. Deepening the colors in my images in order to show the vividness that I witness through colors.