Today we chat with Ilene Squires, Teaching Artist for ArtsMatter at The LA Promise Fund.
I am a lifestyle photographer working mostly in Los Angeles and New York City. My work is focused on servicing schools, non-profits and small businesses as I help these groups tell their story in the most authentic and beautiful way.
Why do you do this work? What do you love about it? Before I became a professional photographer 10 years ago, I was an educator. Though I am a native Angeleno, my career started in NYC where I joined Teach For America, directly out college. I've taught in public, private and charter settings so it goes without saying that I am very passionate about education reform and arts integration. I am a first generation college graduate and daughter of an immigrant. My parents weren't exactly thrilled with either of my career choices and continue to be proud, albeit, surprised that I make a living like this. That is why I do this work - to show lots of young people all over our city that making a living as an artist is possible!
What's one of your favorite memories during your work for the LA Promise Fund? Over the summer I worked on a cool partnership with Paramount Studios where we designed a fully integrated arts curriculum for the new Spongebob movie that was used by 100 public school students and translated to several languages to be used beyond our contract. That was amazing - to see our ideas transform to actions, and in this case, animated pieces from young artists, was so inspiring. Second to this was teaching after school last year where most of my students were girls who came to spill the tea once a week. I learned so much about my students from just talking to them over snacks on Thursdays!
When you were a teenager, what did you want to do in life? I wanted to become something my parents could brag about - a lawyer or politician - but I was never good at office jobs or being 'too buttoned up.' From the age of 5 I played competitive sports and I longed for a career as an NBA broadcaster or an Anthropologist. I'd say a lot of the work I do now is a type of the latter. All the jobs I've ever had, including this one, have one thing in common - they affected some sort of change.
If you could give your teenage self some advice, what would it be? What is important to you today won't be important to you in 5 years. That cycle continues until the day it doesn't. So basically, don't sweat it! And when you find yourself in a jam remember: "This too, shall pass."
What are three fun facts about you?
I speak Spanish fluently but am not a native speaker.
Obsessed with travel, I've been to 36 countries and counting! There is not one place I do not want to go.
I've worn glasses since I was 7 years old.
What artist(s) inspires you and why? My favorite photographers are James Van Der Zee, Gordon Parks and Mary Ellen Mark. I'm a photographer of people and these three were amazing film photographers who captured mood + spirit on film.
What is the one thing you are sure to do when we are on the other side of this Pandemic? I can't wait to travel again, especially with my girls. And also, go to a family party where we dance under the stars until the the sun rises, hug each other and eat until our bellies hurt.