Karen Miranda Rivadeneira: photographing magic in Ecuador

A magical Ecuador seen through the eyes of New York photographer Karen Miranda will be exhibited in Miyako Yoshinada, New York. “In the mouth of the mountain jaguar everybody is a dancing hummingbird” brings to life her childhood in Bolívar province and the Andean landscapes.

We read about this artist in The New York Times published on January 4 where they refer to her work as “a view of the magical realism of Ecuador.” Her photographs are an allegory to the time of her childhood which she now tries to see with a fresher look: a “cleanse ritual” with eggs, green landscapes, condors and farmers.


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Source: Karen Miranda Rivadeneira


With patience and sincere interest in the people who would become her subjects, Karen managed to immerse herself in the daily lives of the individuals we see in her photographs. She managed to connect the intentions of her project with the identity of those who opened their homes, favorite corners and workplaces to be portrayed in their purest essence.

You can review her project here.


Karen Miranda Rivadeneira was born in 1983 in New York but grew up in Ecuador. She studied painting at the School of Visual Arts in New York, returned to Ecuador where she worked in national newspaper El Comercio as a documentary photographer. Thanks to her work in this paper, she got a scholarship for photojournalism at the Danish School of Journalism.

Now, at 34, she is a photographer with many awards to her credit. Awards such as the Wurlitzer Foundation Grant, NYFA, Real Art Ways, New Works Photography Fellowship of En Foco. She was also nominated for the 2016 Greenpeace Photo Award for her work with the Waorani community.

We had the opportunity to ask her some questions, here our short but interesting conversation.

How would you define storytelling? What is unique about photography in telling stories that other channels don’t have?

Storytelling is a social, cultural and personal act of sharing through stories emotions, visions, sensations, and relationships. Personally, I love listening to stories, being able to see each one as a movie in my mind, and being able to freeze some momentos to get deeper into them: this is where photography gets its gravitas. In storytelling, photography has the particularity of freezing the past and the future and isolating everything at a time chosen by the author, expressing a whole story in a rectangle / square (photo) and this in turn creates even more moments, then the narrative becomes like an infinitely opening rose.

I read that you worked at El Comercio and then studied photojournalism. Now that you work on more intimate and identity projects, do you have plans to return to journalism and if so, where would you like to go?

Very rarely I have something defined that way, rather I find situations and then I see how you can create stories in that situation. Many times when there is no external impulse to visit any community, or make images, I paint and it is in that space that I can reorient myself to the next project …


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Source: Karen Miranda Rivadeneira


The relationships of trust you have established with your subjects, both in your last project and with the Waorani, are not easy to achieve. How was your process to integrate, along with your camera, and ensure that the naturalness of their gestures is not broken?

Each relationship needs a unique attention, the first thing for me is to see the dynamics of the group / community / tribe / society, to be very attentive to what is around, without expecting to leave with something. I have spent months in a community without taking a picture, and I think it is that kind of detachment towards the environment but at the same time commitment to the project that makes me integrate in other ways with my subjects and at the same time shapes the images I make.

How is your connection with Ecuador and New York different? Much of what I have seen, (I may be wrong), is that you bring the Ecuadorian past to the present in New York, mainly because it is where you expose your work. Is there any project that is the opposite way?

I have lived almost all my life between these two places, and the way these doors have been opened has been part of the process of being an artist in these globalized times and of hyper connectivity. There are many people who like my work and I have had contacts with them for years and I have never seen them, so it is not that I bring my work to NY, I take my work wherever I go, it seems that NY is where I present my work most but it is not like that, Europe, in particular France is a place where I have had more exhibitions and opportunities.

The work that perhaps differs from the rest would be Transportation Objects, although all coincide in the storytelling.

What plans or projects are there for this year?

Now I’m doing a lot of cyanotypes, and I feel that all of 2018 will be blue.