At 54, Josue Castro has had a long road to photography.
To please his parents, he earned a degree in graphic design from the Universidad Iberoamericano in Mexico City, where he grew up.
He later studied painting and started showing his work in Hillcrest 15 years ago. Now, he's working on photography thanks to San Diego City College and San Diego photographer David Fokos, Castro's friend, mentor and model for the piece on the cover of the week's CityBeat.
“With one, you paint with acrylics, oils or other kinds of material. With photos, you paint with light. Because that's the etymology of photography—‘painting with light,'” Castro says.
Now living in Hillcrest with his wife, Castro was inspired to create the image on this week's cover and the accompanying series Equal=Secret Identities following the passage of Prop. 8, which banned gay marriage in California.
“I live in Hillcrest; I have a lot of friends in the gay community,” he says. “When Prop. 8 revoked their rights, I started working on this project about secret identities. People really change once they know your secret. Otherwise, they don't care.
“The idea is to make people feel that once you know the secret of anybody, you start treating the people different,” he adds. “That's the main concept of this project.”
In Equal=Secret Identities, Castro's subjects are participants in the S&M / bondage subculture. With each portrait titled using the subject's occupation, Castro seeks to explore the divisiveness people experience once their opinions are known—whether it's support of gay marriage, religion or involvement in bondage.
“All the people in my project are real people,” Castro says, “people that are into [S&M]. It's more about secret identities that I tried to show, more than bondage.”
The photographs, which are 5-by-8-feet and printed on canvas, evoke the iconic pictures in older Mexican churches that were used to teach the Bible to illiterate parishioners. Here, Castro backlights the subject, creating a halo of sorts.
“I just like to make it look—the photo—like religious icons,” Castro explains. “They're huge images; they're very big photos.
“The purpose of the image was to make it look in the museum like one of the saints from old Mexican churches; that's why there's kind of a radiant glow, a halo, in order to make it look like a religious icon from 500 years ago, from those very old churches.”
Castro's exhibition was at Little Italy's Jett Gallery (989 W. Kalmia St.), where Castro works as a curator, and is traveling to Guadalajara, Mexico, before heading to San Francisco. You can see his work at antrodelaluz.blogspot.com.