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Interview with Voyage KC

Oct 21, 2022

Conversations with Ingrid Perez-Esquivel

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ingrid Perez-Esquivel.

Hi Ingrid, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.

Using my creativity was always an outlet for me. I felt safe working with markers, paper, and clay. You name it. My mom still has many random arts and crafts I created as a child. I lived in a domestically violent home that didn’t allow for much self-expression. So anything art-related always felt safe. I didn’t have to think too hard; I just flowed.

As I grew into my teenage years, I found an outlet through photography and writing. In many ways, I felt invisible, and those art forms were the safest and most intimate to me. Not only did I feel invisible at home, but I also felt invisible to the world. I struggled with severe self-esteem issues due to the abuse at home, but I was also growing up undocumented. I immigrated to Kansas City as an infant from Mexico in 1994 and never looked back. I was told to keep quiet and cause the least amount of attention to myself as possible. So I dived into my academics and focused my energy on that. I knew it’d be the only way to be sure I could provide myself with a promising future, and no one would be able to take my education from me, so I chose to ignore my creative talents and focus on business school. I found myself grieving the loss of my first love to suicide and the loss of my father to heart failure shortly after graduating from Kansas State University in 2014, which left me empty, broken, lost, and confused. But mostly angry. I was mad at the abuse I endured as a child. I was convinced I was meant to suffer my entire life. I had known nothing but suffering since my earliest memories. In those dark moments, I found comfort and healing through my creativity again.

I purchased my DSLR in 2016, a year after my partner passed, to find pockets of peace and beauty in nature. As a teen, I would photograph flowers and always found myself fascinated with nature and its imperfect perfection. Eventually, I began to see that same loving energy in human beings in photographs. A big part of my healing journey through all my grief and childhood trauma was practicing mindfulness and self-compassion. One of the main components of self-compassion is to have compassion for others. In doing so, we understand and “feel” others’ pain that, subsequently, opens and softens our hearts to want to ease their suffering. We realize everyone makes mistakes, fails, gets hurt, or goes through difficult moments. This is what makes up the human experience and something we share with every person on the planet. Once I understood that portrait photography became something more profound to me. It was more than a photograph. It was telling a story of joy, love, and light. I’d found happiness again and knew I had a gift to show others theirs. I sought to find the pockets of moments in sessions where people felt at ease. Where their minds weren’t focused on other matters, insecurities, worries about their body shape, or poses that were “flattering.” My goal as a photographer became to help others see the light and joy they contain within captured in a photograph so they could be reminded of it forever. We often look in a mirror and see the perception of the speech we use to talk to ourselves, and many times it’s not kind. I wanted to change that perception for people. I wanted to show them their magic in an authentic way. Seeing their reactions to their cheekbones flushed with joy and smiles some hadn’t seen in years made me sure I was doing what I was meant to do in life. I had a gift, and it had a place in the world. That is what makes me unique as a portrait photographer. I can capture my client’s essence by making them feel accepting of themselves and helping them tap into their light. I can see it and help bring it out of them. I know from first-hand experience what it’s like to start from zero self-esteem, and now I can help others see their beauty even when they struggle to see it.

While exploring my gift as a portrait photographer, I realized my gift of seeing joy and light in others could be manifested in another form to provide healing for the world. Going through many traumatic life experiences allowed me to tap into the power of mindfulness through the Buddhist teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, which gave me a new manual on how to live in the present and enjoy life as it is. I have recently begun a new creative project to bring healing to the world through mindfulness and self-compassion. I have started to produce content on social media to bring awareness to our everyday habits, thoughts, emotions, perceptions, and experiences to ease our internal suffering of the past, fears, doubts, insecurities, etc. My end goal is to create a community around this initiative providing programs such as courses, a podcast, and classes of embodied movement in the form of yoga. I am currently studying for my certification as a yoga instructor and will be providing classes beginning in December 2022. I am grateful for all the experiences I’ve had in my life, the good and the bad. They’ve allowed me to fully embrace my creative gifts of writing, speaking, and photographing.

Click the link below to read more of my interview!

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