Story 142: Kenneth Jimenez

What is your backstory?

I was born and raised in La Garita, Alajuela, a small town in Costa Rica. It’s a rural area surrounded by mountains, farms, and sugar cane fields an hour away from the capital.

I have vivid memories as a kid of running with my cousins and playing in the open fields. We would spend the days picking up mangos, playing hide and seek and climbing trees. The sounds of the mountains at night, the smoke and fire coming out of the sugar cane fields during harvesting season, the smell of coffee in my grandma’s house, and the memories of the light that would hit our backyard at the end of the day still remain very fresh in my mind.

I was interested in music very early and picked up the guitar when I was seven years old. My brother and my cousins were interested in music as well, so we would all play together. When I entered high school, I went to a conservatory in Alajuela and when I turned twenty, I moved to the United States on a scholarship to pursue a career as a jazz bassist and composer.

After finishing college in Miami, I moved to New York and began to meet a community of inspiring artists in different fields. My relationship with photography started from improvising to silent films — mainly avant-garde filmmakers of the 60’s and 70’s (e.g. , Jonas Mekas, Stan Brakhage and Bruce Baillie) or German Expressionism films. I would project them and create scores, sometimes individually with just my bass and sometimes with other musicians that joined me.

Soon after, I picked up a camera and decided to create my own images. I started putting together short videos to pair them up with improvised music pieces I would record. Then, I began to focus more on still photography. I found myself gravitating towards documentary work. I would photograph people I would meet in my day to day life amongst my new surroundings. The people I would meet during these encounters and the conversations we would have were moments I cherished because of my need for human connection.

I’ve never formally studied photography and my approach to it has been completely empirical. I’ve been taking photographs for the past five years, so the medium is something that still feels really fresh and new to me.

When I get a chance to take photos in my hometown, I find myself revisiting a place that feels incredibly familiar but new at the same time. The people, the landscape, and my connection feel transient, and the place I remember and long for now only exists in my mind. Photographing these moments has become a way for me to deal with these feelings.

What camera gear/editing setup do you use?

I use a Mamiya 6MF, a Fuji GW690, a Zeiss Contaflex for 35mm and a Fuji Xt3 when I take digital photos. A lot of these photos were also taken with a Kiev 88 camera, which was the first medium format camera I owned. I use Lightroom as an editing tool.

How do you achieve the look of your photographs and could you take us through the process?

I develop all my photographs in the bathroom of my apartment. I enjoy every part of this process as it gives me a chance to get closer to these images and relive these moments that I captured. I process the film thinking of the amount of light and contrast I want for my photographs and after scanning them I do some adjustments as well.

Could you tell us the backstory of some of your photographs?

The images in this selection that I took in Costa Rica are of people that are very close to me– in most cases family members. Photographing them is something that feels very natural for me. It’s also a way to get closer to them and spend time together. I feel like the camera has allowed for a deeper connection and stronger bond between us. Documenting these moments is a way of combining the images I have stored in my childhood memories with our present realities.

The other part of this work are images I’ve taken in New York City. In some cases I’m depicting close friends, but in most of them, they are people I’ve met on the street. I like to talk to people. I like to hear them and learn about their backgrounds as well as sharing mine. The camera has become another excuse for me to do something that’s already natural for me, and more than that, necessary I would say.

I also feel like I have a personal history that links me up with the people of this place, and in getting to understand this city better and the people that live here I feel like I’m also digging up my own roots as well.

In the 1970’s, my grandparents moved to New York City and lived here with my mom and her two siblings for ten years. My grandpa worked carrying boxes at the piers and my grandma worked at a deli, waitressing and cleaning apartments. After that they returned to Costa Rica. Their story of migration is something that I’ve felt has connected me with this city since before I was born. I find myself going to places that they used to visit fifty years ago and often thinking of them.

After my grandfather passed away, I learned that he was a photographer as well and he would regularly go out with his camera and do street photography in this city. I think of him a lot when I pick up my camera.

What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?

Photography is still a medium that’s very new to me. My connection with it began out of pure curiosity and a need to express some aspects of my day to day life that I wanted to document and eventually share with others. Before taking photographs I had already been doing this my whole life with music. The medium was different, but the questions I was trying to ask myself remain the same.

I believe the main concern should be to nurture what resonates with you and to create without having any expectations of what the outcome may be. I believe an artist shouldn’t be concerned about being accepted into any circle because this will condition your creative endeavors and make them rely on what others may think of them. Instead, we should discover what feels true to ourselves, and if we’re lucky enough, we’ll be able to share with others something that feels honest and vulnerable.


Kenneth Jimenez


Story 143: Jade Joannés


Story 141: Rafael Trapiello