Conversation with Gabriella N. Báez by Ellie Murphy (22), Margo Muyres (22), Briana McGowan (22)

by Chris Burke
Jan 23

On January 10th, we were able to interview Gabriella N. Báez – a freelance photographer from Puerto Rico. They work on individual projects and photograph for journalist newspapers such as TIME and the New York Times. Gabriella’s photography covers a wide range of topics, including the effects of Hurricane Maria on mental health and bringing underrepresented community networks to the foreground. A link to some of their work can be found here. Our conversation with Gabriella was helpful for understanding how many mainstream news media outlets on the mainland oversimplify Puerto Rico’s situation in its portrayal. Gabriella spoke about how mainstream news covering PR tends to check off “boxes” i.e. talking about the debt crisis, Hurricane Maria, and tourism and always tell the same story about the island. This leads to overgeneralization and only one, monolithic understanding of Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican culture. Gabriella’s personal work is the antithesis to this; their work tries to go against this trend and highlight the voices who are usually not considered in mainstream media. Gabriella’s work often highlights the lesser-seen ramifications of an issue and breaks it down to an interpersonal level. Gabriella’s insights are important for us to consider as we continue our research about climate change in relation to sovereignty in Puerto Rico. When executing a project, Gabriella explained that they try to be conscious about collaborating with the people with whom they work to ensure that they are properly representing them and taking their own identity and positionality into account. They work to acknowledge how their own identity impacts how they understand their subjects. As we continue to conduct research in Puerto Rico and interview individuals, it is important that we consider how our identities as individuals from the mainland U.S. impacts how we understand Puerto Rico and be transparent about where we are coming from.