Interview by Alli Lindsey
Oswaldo Cepeda is MoodyDarkRoom. Although his catalog is steeped in a cosmic spirit, the Southern California-based photographer is less of a dreamer and more of an adaptor. A light-bender defined by his DIY dexterity, Oswaldo is equal parts scrappy and stylish. At first glance MoodyDarkRoom’s portfolio is a boundless series of instinctive elegance; but behind the artist’s Sony A7II you’ll find a modest dedication to resourcefulness. Like Lego-building and connect-the-dots, Oswaldo Cepeda makes art out of what is readily available and within reach. As plain-spoken as he is complex, Oswaldo gives C-Heads an insightful glimpse into what makes MoodyDarkRoom, MoodyDarkRoom.
What is the point of photography anyways? Why is it important for humans?
I think photography like any other artform is a way of showing expression. Some prefer to share their feelings with music, some with poems, and some with visual art. Photography is a way of expressing emotion when looked at from an art perspective but it is also a way of capturing history, memories, and moments in time.
Photos last forever, how do you think people 100 years from now will interpret your art?
I think 100 years from now people will definitely know my work since my work isn’t the “traditional” work that most people these days do. My work doesn’t necessarily have a crystal clear message so even in present day there really isn’t a right or wrong way to interpret my work. In the future I think my work will be interpreted the same as I try to create timeless photos.
What do you want people to feel when they see your work?
I want my photos to feel something. What that something is ultimately comes down to whoever is looking at my work. A lot of my work leans towards themes of loneliness, melancholy, and in some ways sonder.
With a large “social following” and “social engagement,” do you feel pressure to present success to the public?
With a large following I definitely do feel some pressure but at the end of the day people follow me because of how I’m able to depict emotion through photos. I will never stop doing that so I don’t think I will ever fail.
Are your models always professional? If not, how do you create a comfortable environment for them when shooting?
I actually prefer to shoot with close friends. A lot of my “models” don’t even model outside of the photoshoots we do. This creates a very comfortable environment and really allows emotion to be portrayed in the purest form possible because the models will know exactly what I mean when it comes to the “vibe” of photos I’m trying to capture.
“I think as much as men want to portray themselves as “hard” and “dominant,” once they see themselves through a soft and artistic perspective it makes them rethink what people can perceive them as.”
There’s a softness to your work, especially when capturing humans. Do you think the men you shoot ever struggle with seeing themselves in soft, intimate spaces?
I think as much as men want to portray themselves as “hard” and “dominant,” once they see themselves through a soft and artistic perspective it makes them rethink what people can perceive them as. This can hopefully make them more comfortable straying away from what’s expected of them from a societal standpoint because what’s expected isn’t always what someone might want to do.
Do you have a dream ‘person’ to shoot? Or a dream ‘environment’ to shoot in?
I don’t really have a “dream” person I would like to take photos with. I’ve detached myself from the idea that the person in front of the camera has to be this big extravagant name for the photos to be taken seriously. I almost prefer shooting with people that aren’t known because that makes the story behind the photo even stronger. It makes people wonder who the person is and what their story entails. This brings the viewer into the photo much more than if it were some celebrity. I do think it would be cool to shoot with someone like Billie Eilish, Kanye West, and Zendaya but it would be more so for fun.
Your use of light is what sets you apart from many of your peers, why do you think light connects so deeply with people?
Photography literally means the capturing of light and a lot of photographers fail to see this. I see a lot of repeated and generic lighting in photography which people are used to. The reason my work strikes something in the viewer is not because of the light but rather the lack of it. My work is very dark and has a lot of shadows which makes the brain have to work twice as hard to fill in the lack of visual information. This combined with color theory and my use of color makes the viewer have much more focus on the photo without even knowing it. This attention creates a deeper connection and allows the viewer of the photos to feel more emotion.
“Photography literally means the capturing of light and a lot of photographers fail to see this.”
What do your dreams, nightmares, and daydreams look like? Do they ever bleed into your work or vice versa?
I actually haven’t dreamed in years. I just close my eyes and wake up the next day. I do however get visuals when I listen to music. It’s almost like a trance and listening to music is how I get most of my inspiration for my photos.
If a child asked you how they could create imagery like yours, how would you break it down for them?
I could easily break down the objective way of taking photos like mine but all the tools in the world won’t replace creativity. Some of my most well received photos have been taken with very cheap gear but in such a creative way that in the moment of viewing it none of that matters. The key to my photos isn’t the gear I use, it’s what’s in my head and I don’t really think I can even begin to explain that to anyone.
Will you be a photographer forever? What are some other creative pursuits you are involved in or want to be involved in?
I do plan on doing photography for a while. Eventually I want to get into film and create movies. I also do want to go into other creative fields and business ventures but I do see myself taking photos until I die or go blind.
If tomorrow you woke up, and photography never existed, what would you do?
If tomorrow there was no photography and I could restart my career path I would go back to school and become a neuroscientist.
Put us on some of the most innovative visual artists you know?
I try not to take any inspiration from other visual artists because I would hate for their work to bleed into mind and for mine to lose its originality but the few artists I do look up to are Ren Hang (photographer), Miles Johnson (painter), and Casey Weldon (mixed media).