Name: Steven Molina Contreras
Occupation: Artist and photographer
Motivator: My family and artists
NYC Neighborhood: Lower East Side
Tu país: El Salvador
Steven Molina Contreras moved to Long Island, New York, from his native El Salvador at a young age. He found himself assimilating to life in the US reasonably quickly. It was during his college years at the Fashion Institute of Technology that Molina Contreras discovered his calling for photography. He credits his mentors with introducing him to photographers who pushed the medium forward. When he thought he’d be limited to studio work, Molina Contreras realized he could explore storytelling in the most intimate settings and with the most delicate subject: his family.
“A lot of my work has been a meditation and contemplation on our immigration story—our dealings with separation from our family in El Salvador and my stepfather’s family in Peru. His journey with deportation and my mother’s journey establishing her roots and her business here, mostly alone,” Molina Contreras says. As he exposes the complexities of immigrant settlement, he sees his passion as a mechanism for families like his own to see their cultural narratives captured for posterity.
Early into his career, Molina Contreras feels his work is met with empathy and sympathy, especially among those in similar situations: “Being behind my lens with my family as the subject definitely keeps me pretty grounded and gives me a humble and open perspective on other things I may not immediately relate to. It’s liberating and complicated.” He’s already worked with the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker and T Magazine, to name just a few major publications. You can find him around the City or in his neighborhood of LES—behind the lens, of course.
What makes NYC home? My formative experiences with friends and family.
Go-to Latino-owned spot: My favorite is El Castillo De Jagua. A close friend of mine introduced me to it; the food is incredible and reminds me of my family’s cooking. It’s also low-key and has a great vibe.
Describe Latino culture in NYC: Fabulous
Favorite saying: Adelante! (Ahead!)
Connect with Steven at @stevenmcontreras