Due to time constraints and pending events, this post/interview is long overdue . But, better late than never, right? Back in April, Alina Vargas-Afanasieva of LadyBug Pinup, a Dominican/Ukrainian photographer was invited to the thriving community of Washington Heights (Northern Manhattan for you non-New Yorkers). The show was curated by fellow artists M.Tony Peralta and Dip-sters, where she showcased a series of beautiful portraits at local art hub Apt.78. In attending her closing party, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Alina and was able to get better acquainted with her work. To read full interview, please scroll down.
RBATC: Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Alina: Most people when they first see me think I’m American or European, but I am both Dominican and Ukrainian. My mother is Ukrainian and my father is Dominican. I have lived in both countries, but I’ve spent most of my life in D.R. We first moved to D.R. in 1993 – so it’s been about 20 years I’ve spent in D.R.
RBATC: Were you familiar with this part of Manhattan before having your exhibition here?
Alina: This is my first time having a show in the States, and this is my first time ever in New York City. I wasn’t familiar with this area, but I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the community support and the incredible turnout.
RBATC: So how did you meet the curators M.Tony Peralta and Dip-sters?
Alina: “Ladybug Pinup” is a project I started in 2011 and I met Christopher Rodriguez and Daniel Baez (aka Dip-sters) first in the Dominican Republic because they were fans of the project. Through them I meet Tony and we all became friends rather quickly. Tony loved the concept behind my project which incorporates American pop culture and implements it with women of color – especially Dominican women who rarely are seen in mainstream media styled as pinups. My models are a bevy of races, shapes and sizes – and he thought it would be an awesome idea to showcase my work in a neighborhood that is predominately Dominican.
RBATC: How has this project been received in the Dominican Republic?
Alina: This style of photography has never been done in D.R. and so it makes my work stand out. And due to the popularity of my project, it is now getting a buzz in the media. But that’s want I wanted to highlight – I wanted to highlight what Dominican women represent to me: the Dominican woman represent femininity, elegance, and she loves her body.
RBATC: Are most of your subjects professional models, and how do you go about selecting them?
Alina: I knew I wanted different colors, shapes and sizes because that is what I see in my surroundings. Majority of the women I see and know are mulatta and/or of mixed race and so I wanted to focus on showcasing these beautiful women. And what’s interesting is that most of them are not models. In fact, many of my models are college students with no modeling backgrounds. I didn’t want to photograph models who are already making a living as that because that would defeat the purpose. I wanted to showcase beautiful women of color who were perhaps pursing other careers other than modeling. My only requirement is confidence in front of the lens.
RBATC: Where did the name “LadyBug Pinup” come from?
Alina: Well, I researched a lot before settling on the name “LadyBug,” and one day I randomly came across the meaning behind Ladybug. I found that in certain parts of the world “LadyBug” is something that brings good luck to people and businesses alike. I surveyed the name amongst several friends and family and “LadyBug” was the one that was most liked. I took it as a sign of good luck.
RBATC: Are there artists who have inspired you and/or your work?
Alina: I’m a big fan of Gil Elvgren who’s a great American pinup and glamour painter. I loved his style and I wanted to bring that same vibrancy and aesthetic to my style of photography.
RBATC: Where do you see “Ladybug Pinup” going?
Alina: Well, only time will tell. I would love to keep this project going and continue doing it – and so I want to keep the possibility of longevity open.
You can see Alina’s online work by visiting her homesite here: LadyBug Pinup. Below, is her artist statement:
• About Ladybug Pin Up:
“Hello! I’m Alina Vargas -Afanasieva and I welcome you LadyBug PinUp, the first photographic studio specializing in photography in the Dominican Republic PinUp. If you like everything about the vintage style and the decades of the 40s and 50s or you just want to have fun making you the doll in front of the camera, look no further. Whether you want to retratarte (photograph yourself) alone, with your friends or give that spicy (but still elegant) picture to that special person in your life, I have a plan just for you. Professional makeup, hairstyle, accessories, vintage style clothing, scenery, suplo everything you need to make your photo shoot Vintage PinUp an experience.” – Alina Vargas-Afanasieva
— Roz Baron