Behind Her Lens | Alba Betancourt

Behind Her Lens | Alba Betancourt

If the lens is where the world meets the mind of a photographer, then Alba Betancourt's lens is determined to tell a story. Each image has an essence of composure that undoubtedly stems from her styling background. Her ability to create images that have an implicit familiarity yet stand out as something unique to show the world is a rare gift—this gift she has in spades.

I cannot accurately express my love for Alba's work without first telling the story of how our paths crossed.

I first met Alba on Instagram after running into her work for a few other local shops and brands in Portland. Straight away, I appreciated the sensitivity in each frame she captured and have been following her career path as a photographer ever since. Her photos never feel like random snapshots. Her use of light is intentional, and her way of capturing special moments in time has always mesmerized me.

The most valuable aspect of our working together has been the constant development of our friendship, getting to work alongside one another and witness each other's personal endeavors evolve simultaneously.

Whenever I look at the images Alba captures for Storied Objects, it slows me down enough to try and decipher the time and place. The photographs achieve a sense of timelessness in that manner – there is something so special about them. Still, as I continue to search for the words to capture Alba's language in photography, I can't find anything that will do it justice.

So, I'll let these images featuring some of her picks from Storied Objects, speak for themselves.

I hope you enjoy this short interview and intimate look into Alba's home, seen through her eyes and lens.


Hello Alba! Would you mind telling our readers a bit about how you got started with photography?

I’m so happy to be in this space, Alex, it really means a lot—thank you!

I feel like photography sort of came to me out of nowhere during a time of a lot of change in my life. I moved to Portland in 2016 and at the time, I was craving connection after spending an isolating winter in the midwest. I joined a couple of workshops and that led me to discover a whole new world of creativity as a career and freelancing as a lifestyle. I started asking local people whose work I admired to sit down with me and share their story.  I created an online website with the sole purpose of sharing these conversations because I just found myself so inspired by these stories. Eventually, that led me to develop an interest in commercial photography, I did a lot of small product shoots so that I could add visuals to these online features. Things have changed a lot, but that was a season of my life that I remember so fondly because it played a huge part in finding my way to today.

What is your primary goal when you begin styling for a shoot? Walk us through your creative process. 

I don’t think of my process often, so this is an interesting exercise in trying to make sense of it—haha. 

I think for me to be ready to dive into styling (or photographing, for that matter), I need to feel like I have an understanding of the brand, the subject, and/or the storyline. I think that my approach to it all (even other aspects of my life beyond photography), relies heavily on getting some sense of the essence of things. Knowing what isn’t and keeping it absent, in an effort to stay true to what is

The way I see styling on a project, even on those I’m not styling myself, is that it has to feel seamless. Like it’s part of a whole.  I believe those are the times when a visual is more likely to resonate, when you don’t really think of what went down to make a photograph—like, you don’t necessarily think to yourself “oh, impeccable styling!” or “masterful photography!”. Everything just makes sense and it feels effortless and whole. I guess that’s my aim, whatever my role on a shoot might be.

What feelings do you wish to illicit with your work?

Ease is probably number one. It is also really important to me to do work that feels honest and sensible.

What influences play a role in your photography? How has it changed over the years?

I’m currently very inspired by living spaces, interiors—the comfort of them, the familiarity, the sort of permanence. I feel that’s been informing my work as of late.  

I think the older I get, the more attuned I feel to what I like and what feels good to me at any particular moment. I now know that what inspires me will constantly evolve and the less I try to constrain it, the more it feels like it flows. I didn’t know that before. Photography has taken me on a journey of self discovery and I feel like my findings hugely influence my work. The more I know about myself, the more I can lean into it and the more my work makes sense to me.  

It's apparent how influential and important your heritage is to you; how has it played a role in your photography style?

Photography as a career is a retreat from familial expectations for me, or at least my perception of them. I grew up in a big family, loud and loving—I adore it. Moving away from that family to start my own though, with a partner that is culturally so different, offered me a possibility to communicate with myself in an entirely new way. In a sense, it feels like my work may come accross as a departure from my heritage, when truly,  it’s just a different interpretation of what is important to me: honesty, ease, sensibility. 

I think my style reflects the fact that this work is a way for me to find myself time and time again. 

Since living in Portland, OR how has your work adapted and changed?

Portland made this work possible for me. I’m not sure I would have found this possibility anywhere else!

It's quite the leap diving into freelance work. Any important learnings or words of encouragement you have for those considering it themselves?

I think remembering that we are not our job and I guess that goes whether you’re self-employed or not, but sometimes as a freelancer it’s harder to keep yourself busy. I’ve found I need to constantly remind myself that the number of projects I work on, the dollar amount I manage to make each year, or even the price I’m able to set for my projects, does not correlate to my worth as a person. And, you know, it’s all well and logical within this conversation but sometimes it’s hard to fully believe that—so, I think my advice is to have people around you that value who you are, regardless of what you can produce. 

Name some of your favorite independent artists and brands that you love so our readers know about them.

I really gravitate towards multidisciplinary artists, there’s something about that fluidity that feels so freeing to me, at least from the outside.  Simon Schmidt, Denisse Ariana Pérez, Oghalé Alex, Julia y Renata, Kae Tempest, Rosa Park, Bernardo Dominguez, Leigh Patterson are some of my favorites.  Binu Binu, Frama, Openhouse, Comme Si, are some favorite brands that come to mind!

What type of other passions and interests do you have beyond photography? Make sure to tell our readers about your food popup, Maria!

Yes! I feel drawn to food and hospitality as an invitation to connect with others. My sister and I started a food pop-up, María, a little over a year ago. It is something I daydream about A LOT! 

Travel is another interest of mine, so is people watching at coffee shops. 

We live in a society where so much of our identity is surrounded by the things we consume. How do you approach mindful living and sustainability in the context of your work and everyday life?

I try to live a life that allows for pause and reflection and I’d like to think that anything I bring in feels true to me and serves a purpose—committing to that alignment helps me discern whether something is necessary.  

My grandma was a seamstress who believed in quality over quantity and that has resonated with me more and more through the years. I don’t believe in the accumulation of consumer goods. Most of what we have has been with us for years and we find a lot of value in it.

I think mindless consumption is a threat, not only to our planet, but to the way we experience the world. We are pushed to overconsumption in so many areas of our life… That said, I can’t really say I lead a sustainable life. You will find packaged greens and yogurt in a plastic container in our fridge, sadly. 

Think of an object in your home that has the most significance to you. Could you share with us what it is and the memory behind it?

I have to admit that I am more practical than sentimental, when it comes to objects. There is one thing that I remember so fondly from my childhood, it is a rag doll my grandma made for me. All of it is covered in the same blue and white gingham cotton that resembled a school uniform. It is at my parents’ house and I’ve never really felt the need to extract it from there because it’s always felt like it belongs where I spent my childhood. If I ever have a child though, it is coming with me.

Lastly, what can we expect from you next? Where do you see your work going in the future?

A working/living studio has always been a dream of mine. I hope someday I can bring it to life! 

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