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August 22nd, 2013

Photojournalist Kike Calvo Never Stops Dreaming

Posted by liveBooks

Kike Calvo is an award-winning photographer, bilingual journalist and author represented by National Geographic Stock. The nature of his work is primarily cultural documentary and editorial. He has lectured at the Leica Akademie and is a freelancer for the New York Times. He shares with us a little about his journey as a storyteller, his most memorable moments, and what inspires him.

Melissa Dubasik: How did you get started in photography?

Kike Calvo: This question makes me sad as it was one of the worst moments in my life that drove me into photography. I was studying economics in Spain when my father, a radio personality and one of the most fascinating characters I have ever met, was diagnosed with cancer. I dropped everything and devoted that year to join him on his last journey through hospitals and chemotherapy. Before he died I promised him I would graduate. And I did.

Kike_Calvo_Kyoto

Traditional dancers in Kyoto, Japan. Photo by Kike Calvo.

For me it was the beginning of an internal change, where photography became my way of coping with my grief. I received a scholarship and graduated with a degree in journalism and mass media from the University of Idaho with emphasis in environmental issues. As a result I became an intern at the Charles Darwin Station in the Galapagos Islands for several months. From there I moved to New York City to train at the photo unit within the United Nations Department of Public Information. Other interesting opportunities followed such as being the studio manager at the Soho Photographer and editor for the Graphics Department at the Associated Press for Latin America and the Caribbean.

I am completely self-taught when it comes to photography. For the last 20 years I have been shooting all around the world from Antarctica to the Arctic. It is interesting how hard times in our life make us find new paths. I hope my story will be useful to someone out there who may be going through a difficult time.

Classical ballerina at Yale

Classical ballerina dancing inside a classroom at Yale University. Photo by Kike Calvo.

MD: What are you working on now?

KC: As I write these lines, I am currently sitting on a plane that is taking me from Siam Reap, Cambodia to Thailand. I still have 10 days to go on this photo expedition around Asia that has taken me to Japan, Nepal, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. I am compiling personal work. Documenting ethnic groups and traditional dancers in the region. It has been a wonderful opportunity to create images that will be represented by National Geographic Stock and my other agencies as well as developing content for my column on the National Geographic blog Newswatch.

Kike_Calvo_dancer

Kike and a young Mong girl wearing traditional wedding dress in Luang Prabang (Laos). Photo courtesy of Kike Calvo.

MD: What is your dream project?

KC: More than my dream project, my dream is to never stop dreaming. I am extremely happy with all the opportunities life has granted me. Truth is, I am a hard worker and I have been pursuing my dream of exploring and documenting the world and its people all my life. Do we need some talent? Yes. But we also need lots and lots of hard work and planning. I teach my students in my Business of Photography Workshop that as photographers we need to think, act and plan as a company. We are not just photographers. We are a business of photography. A business we love with all our hearts but in these harsh times it needs to be carried back to its roots.

Hurricane Sandy, New York

Aftermath of the tropical super storm Hurricane Sandy, Queens, New York, United States, October 30, 2012. Photo by Kike Calvo.

MD: How did you become a National Geographic Expert?

KC: Before joining the team of Experts from National Geographic Expeditions, I worked and photographed all around the world as a freelancer. The New York Times had been sending me on several occasions to Latin America to produce images for the 36 Hours travel section and I had just finished a project in Nicaragua for the United Nations UNOPS Regional Office in Latin America. It was a time when the US was opening its new people to people visa for Americans to visit Cuba and I was invited to join as an expert on one the first expeditions. I am now leading expeditions to Cuba, Costa Rica, and Panama. I will be leading a 20 day Lindblad-National Geographic Expedition from Salvador de Bahia, Brazil all the way down to Buenos Aires, Argentina. The journey will take us to many National Parks on the way down with a stop over in Rio.

MD: What is your most memorable moment so far this year?

KC: This year has been filled with a lot of joy and many unique moments. Its been an incredible year. Mother’s Day in Colon’s Cemetery in Havana, the Gion Festival in Kyoto, the stories of landmine survivors in Cambodia, immersing myself in the ruins of the Ankgor complex in Siam Reap, crossing the Panama Canal by boat, photographing dozens of ethnic groups and traditional dancers in many parts of the world, and documenting Hurricane Sandy in New York City. I remind myself everyday how privileged I am for being able to live my dream. I work as hard as I can to create images that I hope will become part of our photographic history. All the while trying not to loose my smile along the way.

Cuban photographers, Cuban photographer Liborio Noval

Cuban photographer Liborio Noval (1936-2012), holding a photograph of Fidel Castro smoking a cigar, was one of the most iconic photographers of the Cuban Revolution, at his home in Havana. Died in 2012. December 19, 2011. Photo by Kike Calvo via AP Images.

I also got to visit the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN lab in Geneva as part of an interdisciplinary team of Yale University to explore dance, physics and photography. But above all, the opportunity I had to share a road trip with my mother and my brother driving for several days along the East Coast of the United States along with the love shared with me by all the students that attended my photography workshops was amazing.

MD: What inspires you?

KC: I am inspired by life. Our planet is the best stage anyone could find to capture stories and photographic moments. I hope my documentation of this earth will help us as humans become aware of the gift we have been given. I also get inspired by inspiring others to pursue their dreams. My favorite sentence, which I use to end all my mailings is “Never stop dreaming”. It is a wonderful feeling to see my students and those people I meet along my journey achieve their goals and harvest happiness from the seeds they plant with hard work.

National Ballet of Panama

Six ballerinas dance and balance on top of a Diablo Rojo in la Cinta Costera, Panama´s coastal highway. Photo by Kike Calvo.

To see more of Kike’s work visit his website. You can keep up with Kike and his travels by following him on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. And check out some of the cool products he has created for sale.

Kike_Calvo

Kike in Akihabara, Japan. Photo courtesy of Kike Calvo.


4 Comments

  1. August 26th, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Mary Cochran

    Facinating and inspiring. A great story that still has many chapters left.

  2. August 27th, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    Drena Messenger

    What an inspirational story and amazing photos. My daughter, is a photographer and a senior in high school. She has had the opportunity to travel with Nat Geo Student expeditions to Iceland (with Ford) & Ecuador and The Galapagos Islands. She hopes to be a National Geographic photographer some day. I can’t wait to hear what she thinks of your interview. Thank you for sharing.

  3. September 13th, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Kike Calvo

    Many thanks for your kind words Mary. Comments like this make my day. Best Regards and Never Stop Dreaming!

  4. September 13th, 2013 at 10:34 am

    Kike Calvo

    Drena, tell your daughter to never stop fighting for her dream. Good luck, and I wish to meet her one day. Best Regards. Kike.

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