Press Enterprise: March 5, 2014
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Carlos Puma
BY: Patrick Brien
Being a photographer is the only thing that Carlos Puma can ever remember wanting to do. Growing up in East Los Angeles, he fondly remembers how his father “always took pictures with his little Kodak 110 of me doing anything and everything.”
“I thought it was the coolest thing ever to get photos back of me on my tricycle, dressed up for Halloween or opening presents,” he says.
Having followed his passion, Puma has gone on to not only make a great career for himself, but to give a great deal back to the community along the way. The numerous awards he has won include second prize in the World Press Photo International photography competition’s sports category in 2002 and the Riverside County Department of Mental Health Children Services Volunteer of the Year in 2000. The former was for an iconic work titled “Mexican Rodeo” which went on to be part of an international touring exhibition. The latter was for teaching photography classes to children with mental health issues.
Puma graduated from Montebello High School, where he was on staff for the school newspaper, the Derrick Diary. He also won first place at the Sacramento State Fair with his wood sculptures during his sophomore and junior years. At the age of 17, Puma enlisted in the United States Navy, for whom he would go on to serve as a photographer after attending the US Naval Schools of Photography.
Puma later received his BA in Journalism with a concentration in Photo Journalism from Long Beach State. He interned with the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Idaho Statesman and Los Angeles Times, for which he also worked as a freelance photographer, before being hired by the Press Enterprise in 1994. In 2003 he left to start Puma Images, his own photography business.
“I’ve been lucky enough to have documented many events over the years,” says Puma. “People have let me into their lives to tell their stories and that has been a privilege. I grew up a big basketball fan. While in college, Magic Johnson announced that he would retire due to having contracted HIV. When he came back from retirement, I photographed his first game back with the Lakers. The energy in the arena was amazing.”
Puma explains that he feels great photography is made up of light, composition and storytelling.
“If a photographer strives for these three elements, there is a possibility to capture images with impact,” he says.
Since 2012, Puma has been a guest instructor with the Mission Inn Museum’s “Hands on History” youth education outreach projects in communities throughout Riverside.
“I teach digital photography to high school and middle school students using the iPhone, iTouch and iPad, and create digital slideshows with student generated images,” he says.
When asked what sort of guidance he would give to a young photographer, particular to a photojournalist, Puma was happy to speak up.
“First, photojournalism is not dead,” he said. “The internet has disrupted how photojournalists get compensated, but great storytelling images are still in high demand and photographers that can deliver great content will be in high demand. I believe what my college photojournalism professor said. ‘A smart photographer is a good photographer.’ Go to college and get your degree as it will open doors that you could never imagine. Don’t take short cuts.”
For more information on Carlos Puma, visit PumaImages.com.