Photographer finds a niche documenting quinceaneras

Parents shopping for a quinceanera photographer used to walk into Oscar Pedrozas studio and ask: What kind of backdrops do you have?/ppThey were used to a certain look. The teenager in her fancy gown posed in front of faux scenery. Fake forests. Fake castles. Fake oceans./ppThats just not Pedrozas style. The professional photographer, who also does weddings, has set out to change the look of quinceanera photography in Kansas City, one keepsake portrait at a time./pp Ive been working really hard to make a difference, says Pedroza, who runs Oscar Pedroza Studios (named Small Business of the Year in 2011 by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City) out of a small office in Mission. /ppHe photographs quince girls on location. In Loose Park. On the steps and lawn of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Among the flowers and fountains at Kauffman Memorial Garden. On the Country Club Plaza (very quickly, before security rushes them along). On downtown streets./ppLast year he began publishing a magazine in Spanish devoted to this rite of passage for 15-year-old girls, choosing one local teen each month to grace the cover. Being the cover girl for B15 magazine instantly became a must-have privilege./pp span class=”intro_bold_italic”Q./spanQ. How did you get interested in photography?/pp span class=”page_topic_leadin”A./span span class=”bold”A. /spanMy high school teacher (at Shawnee Mission West) told me You know you have a future in photography. You should pursue it. He would give us assignments on different topics, and one of them was eggs just create something with eggs. The Society for Contemporary Photography in Kansas City has an annual show and I won three gold medals that year./ppSo my teacher talked to the people at Highland (Community College in Highland, Kan.), and they gave me a two-year scholarship./pp span class=”intro_bold_italic”Q./spanWhat did you do after Highland?/pp span class=”page_topic_leadin”A./spanI was hired by J.C. Penney doing advertising. Then I started doing graphic design. We were doing 25, 26 stores throughout the country, doing the advertising for all of them. Then I worked for a couple of other companies doing photography, advertising. Eventually I went to Chicago, where I got my bachelor of fine arts (from Columbia College) with an emphasis in photography. And then we moved back to Kansas City, and I started my own photography studio./pp span class=”intro_bold_italic”Q./spanHad you shot quinceaneras before?/pp span class=”page_topic_leadin”A./spanNever. Never! (He laughs.)/pp span class=”intro_bold_italic”Q./spanSo it was a whole new world?/pp span class=”page_topic_leadin”A./spanFor about a year I didnt have enough business because everybody wanted to have a photo span class=”italic”and /spanvideo; they didnt want just pictures. Latinos, they love to see the party, and they get together on the weekends and they watch the video./ppSo then I decided, OK, if Im going to do photography and I want to get into quinceaneras, I better purchase a digital camcorder. Eventually I hired my assistant and everything just blossomed./pp span class=”intro_bold_italic”Q./spanHow many quinceaneras do you do a year? Is there a season?/pp span class=”page_topic_leadin”A./spanEverything sort of starts early April, and then it goes on sometimes even as late as December. Right now we have about 25 events booked already for the year, and were getting more as we go./pp span class=”intro_bold_italic”Q./spanHow do you market yourself?/pp span class=”page_topic_leadin”A./spanFacebook has been very valuable, and the magazine definitely. That has really put a face on the work that I do. Because before, it was all about the price, not necessarily the quality of the photography./ppI think I might be the only Latino doing what I do (in Kansas City) with a bachelor of fine arts with an emphasis in photography. span class=”intro_bold_italic”Q./spanLets talk about the dresses. Where do the girls get these big gowns?/pp span class=”page_topic_leadin”A./spanThere are different stores here in Kansas City. Like, for instance, theres a store called La Fiesta de tu Suenos. Its on Truman Road. It used to be that the quinceanera dress was white, which signified purity. I think because of popular shows on MTV they started doing colorful dresses. Thats sort of where everything just kind of turned into a fashion show for quinceaneras./pp span class=”intro_bold_italic”Q./spanHow much are families spending on quinceaneras?/pp span class=”page_topic_leadin”A./spanDepending on where they do the event, it could run them anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000./pp span class=”intro_bold_italic”Q./spanAre you constantly scoping out locations for shoots?/pp span class=”page_topic_leadin”A./spanYou know, one of the things that I also really wanted to get away from was, I hate to say this, the cheesy photography that I was seeing. Like the girl inside of a glass; they would put her face inside of a glass, with a rose. That was more 80s. People would say, How many backgrounds do you have? I would say, I have Kansas City as my background./pp span class=”intro_bold_italic”Q./spanHow important is it to you that you are working with Latinos?/pp span class=”page_topic_leadin”A./spanI think thats really important. Im bilingual. My assistant is bilingual. And when we go to events, we can talk to everyone and really understand not only the American culture but the Latino culture, and for me thats a big advantage. /ppI love the American culture, and I love everything the U.S. has offered the opportunities that I have had personally. But I also think that part of my culture is still there, its still vibrant, and so I still want to share it with people. I mean, its who I am.

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