Luis Alberto Rodriguez

Luis Alberto Rodriguez on His Journey From Dance to Photography

Show Notes


In coming home to himself, dancer turned photographer Luis Alberto Rodriguez fully claimed the confident perspective that makes him one of the most sought-after talents in fashion and art today. For the gay son of Dominican immigrants, the performance art world offered refuge and exceptional opportunities—such as exploring the globe as a member of European dance companies. A background in dance and a quest to understand intimacy informed his unique photographer’s eye and helped hone the skills that eventually defined his work in the fashion industry today. Self-taught, the Berlin-based photographer shares his personal journey—how he evolved his craft with the help of a camera he won on eBay, various mentors, inspiring photo books, and YouTube tutorials—that led to work in notable publications, such as i-D Magazine, Document Journal, and Vogue. His success story is ingrained with a deep understanding of movement and a reverence for human connections; the shy school kid alone on the New York City subway became a visionary whose eye for integrity and authenticity defines What’s Contemporary Now. “Being proud of where you come from is the key to any kind of success,” says Luis.

Episode Highlights
  • The Roots of Love: Luis's peripatetic experience pursuing his passion for dance from his native New York's "Fame" (LaGuardia) public high school and a BFA at Julliard to his creative odyssey as a performer throughout Europe.
  • Nothing to Fall Back On: Coming from challenging socio-economic circumstances drove Luis's immigrant survival story—as well as his imagination and independence.
  • Mentors: An incredible group of teachers and mentors took Luis under their wing, giving him the guidance his—supportive but uneducated—immigrant parents could not.
  • Dance as a Refuge: What it looked like navigating the world as a young gay boy who was extremely shy, repressed, and culturally unprepared for the swirl around him.
  • The Jump into Photography: A fascination with portfolios and studying models—and the lack of diversity; the works of William Forsythe —and the way he illuminated the body; starting to mentally compose and click photos while traveling the world; studying portraits in photo books, like Richard Avedon's "In the American West."
  • Acquiring Technique: Luis learned his métier one small job at a time, using a camera he won on eBay and tools like YouTube to study shutter speed and aperture.
  • On Being Self-Taught: Whatever the technique or level of technical expertise, what Luis sees most in his work is the expression of his identity and personal history.
  • Creating the Magic: Luis uses a particular alchemy, built in part on his deep history and dance knowledge, to unlock his subjects' bodies and energies.
  • The Role of Dance: His deep understanding of movement and choreography has given Luis tools and a uniquely confident point of view.
  • Imposter Syndrome is Real: Luis still has a pinch-me experience, even as his career has taken off and his random sense of the fashion world has become focused.
  • Word to the Wise: Find those trusted partners who both offer space and provide support for the work.
  • On Intimacy: Luis shares the fascination with and gravitation towards human connection that roots much of his work in "a reflection of inner desire."
  • His debut book of photography: "People of the Mud" is the outgrowth of a two-month residency in Ireland in which he had transcultural access to a homogenous sports community
  • Different Rules: The skepticism and suspicion attached to street photographers of color.
  • The Intuitive Path: Transitioning from dance to photography was not seamless, but Luis trusted where his instinct was taking him and invested in an energizing and life-giving obsession.
  • What Is Contemporary Now? Owning your history. Really digging deep, pulling from it, and being proud of where you come from—intentionally pausing and being still.
Share on :

Contact Us

Thanks for your message. You'll hear from us soon!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.