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Picture Perfect

Victor Contreras uses his photographer’s eye to help build community.

Victor Contreras

From the very first experience that professional photographer Victor Contreras had with a camera, he knew it was a match made in heaven.

“The first time I thought photography would be a profitable passion for me was when I was a student in the university. I took two semesters of photography. I remember it challenged my hungers, and that was the start of my entry into photography,” he recalls. “Every time when I would take pictures, I felt excited to see the results of my work.”

Actually, the seeds of this interest were planted long before he took those college courses, even if he did not realize it. Contreras was a shy child growing up in Nicaragua, so his mother bought him a camera to help him overcome his bashfulness—and it took off from there.

“I like to capture everything happening around me,” he adds. “I feel I have a connection with the camera.”

That passion sparked something within the eagle-eyed artist, who later went on to launch his media career. Prior to establishing his own studio, he worked as a television and radio producer in Nicaragua’s capital city of Managua. He decided to immigrate to the United States to enhance his prospects of succeeding in his newfound career in a new land.

“I miss my home country because I used to be a different person, but here I am thriving in the United States,” he muses. “I’m innovating in my life. I try to look for meaning. I like it here, because in Nicaragua I would never have the opportunities that I have in the United States.”

His big step into the unknown has worked out well. He is a sought-after photographer who has built his empire from the ground up, and he has established a healthy list of clients. In fact, Contreras has done several photo shoots for OutSmart magazine, most recently for the cover of the June Pride Month issue.

“The beginning for me was difficult because I did not have contacts and nobody knew me. I really worked hard to put myself out there and get people to learn about me and my skills,” he recalls.

Even now, his freelance career can experience a few ups and downs. “This month, I have 20 to 22 photo-shoot bookings and three projects going on. Last month, I had only three clients,” he explains.

Traversing the ever-changing landscape of self-employment is not really a daunting challenge for this mogul. After all, he takes inspiration from a well-known source when it comes to rolling with the punches. “Madonna reinvents herself to death,” Contreras mentions of the Material Girl. “In each phase of my life, I keep reinventing and looking for a new version of myself.”

Golden Girls: Contreras has photographed drag stars including Reign LaRue (l), Mistress Isabelle Brooks, and Blackberri

It seems to be working, as he’s made the leap from Central America to the United States, and he holds down a second job as a customer service representative to make ends meet when his photography business is not booming.

He has also invested in professional lighting, specialty camera lenses, and backdrops that he brings along to all of his photo shoots in an effort to capture the ideal image. In other words, he is a one-man band in the photography world.

Despite his busy schedule, Contreras finds time to give back to the community. With the limited discretionary time he has, he volunteers with Somos LOUD—the Latino Outreach and Understanding Division (LOUD), a program of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). LOUD works to fight against HIV/AIDS transmission and the associated stigma in underserved communities. The organization employs initiatives that are culturally relevant and effective at encouraging positive behavioral changes in Latino communities throughout the United States.

Contreras has been volunteering with the group in a marketing role for almost two years. “The mission is to educate about HIV [and promote] PrEP medication and condoms to prevent its spread,” he notes. “We also educate others about how you can live safely in a romantic relationship if you or your partner is HIV-positive.”

It’s a mission worth investing in. Through his philanthropic efforts, Contreras helps LOUD promote the resources that are available to live a healthy life. He enjoys helping the organization provide a platform for unheard voices and empower individuals to take action for the betterment of the community.

Follow Contreras at instagram.com/closeyoureyesphoto.

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Sam Byrd

Sam Byrd is a freelance contributor to Outsmart who loves to take in all of Houston’s sights, sounds, food and fun. He also loves helping others to discover Houston’s rich culture. Speaking of Houston, he's never heard a Whitney Houston song he didn't like.
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