One-on-One with 2017 Featured Artist, Edward Santos

Photo: Edward Santos | via esantosstudios.com

There are a few words that come to mind when you see Edward Santos’ photography for the first time. Beautiful. Complex. Stunning.

Not only is Santos an impressive artist, he is one of the Arts Council’s 2017 Featured Artists and an advocate. Currently Vice President of the Board of Directors at the Veterans Art Foundation, Edward Santos works to fulfill their mission: to inspire veterans and their family members to utilize the arts as their own form of self-therapy to help them cope with any difficulties they may be having and help them with their transition back into society.

We chose Edward Santos to be one of our 2017 Featured Artists because of his impressive creative talents, his passion, and the impact he’s made in advocacy on behalf of Veterans and the arts. We sat down with Santos to discuss his artistic journey and his passionate efforts in advocacy.

Tell me a little about yourself.

I am a Retired U.S Army Sergeant. I served for nine and a half years; I was deployed to Afghanistan twice with Connecticut’s Co C 1-102nd Infantry before being medically retired by the Army. I am also a former Correction Officer at Osborn C.I in Somers, CT. I was introduced to the arts while attending a PTSD group meeting at the Newington Veterans Hospital.

Your photography is stunning! Can you describe your journey with photography?

 Photography has become my saving grace. I like to tell people that art was the best pill the VA (Veteran’s Affairs) could have ever introduced me to. In the 3 years since I’ve been painting and now, working with photography, my work has been featured all around the world. In the USA it’s been in New York City, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Maine, Texas and California. Abroad it has been featured in Paris, London, Italy, Budapest, Portugal and South Korea.

I’ve noticed a reoccurring theme in your body of work of both cityscapes and bodies of water. What do these represent to you? What else influences your photography?

 My cityscapes come from my love of city life. I’m a city boy at heart, having been born and raised in New York City, living in the heart of the city of Hartford-Sisson Ave. Clemens Place Apartments- for some time. Only a person who lives in a city can understand: the energy of the people and the fast paced life. It’s easy to capture in a photograph if you understand it.

My water photography comes from not having any of it while deployed to Afghanistan. I told myself when deployed, if I made it back, I would spend as much time by the ocean as I possibly could. Being a photographer now, you’ll never catch me without some sort of camera. Whether it be my iPhone, my Sony Mirrorless or my drone, it’s only natural to want to photograph our beautiful ocean. It sustains our amazing lives which, based on my experiences, I am especially grateful to have.

Photo: Edward Santos | via esantosstudios.com

I have never been professionally trained in photography. It is my own form of therapy. I believe that the arts can help with recovery for PTSD, depression and so on- but like with any pill a doctor gives you, it will only, in my opinion, be a Band-Aid; a very useful Band-Aid, but a Band-Aid nonetheless. My work- as grateful as I am that many people all around the world enjoy it- at the end of the day is my own form of therapy. It’s what helps me get by. Nothing really inspires or influences my work. I’ve never set out to shoot a series of anything or shoot work that sends some sort of message. I shoot from the hip, literally. Whatever catches my eye is what I photograph.

When and how did you get involved with the Veterans Art Foundation? What are some of their missions and goals?

I was introduced to Michael Hawley in 2003 when the VAF held their first major art show/call for art at the Hartford ArtSpace on Asylum street. 3 months later I was invited to be the Vice President of the Board of Directors.

Our mission is to seek and inspire veterans/veteran family members to hopefully turn to the arts as their own form of self-therapy that can help them cope with any difficulties they might be dealing with as well as possibly helping them gradually transition back to society.

What other work are you doing to support veterans and their involvement in the arts?

Aside from working with the VAF, I was able to collaborate with New Britain City Hall and the New Britain Commission on the Arts to convert part of their 2nd floor as a permanent Veterans Art Gallery, now called: Veterans Expressions. It displays the works of 15-20 veteran artists or a veteran’s family member. I curate a new show every three months. Our next exhibition /reception will be on May 24th. I’m also working with famed photographer Paul Murray of the Rhode Island Art League. Paul is currently collaborating with the Hygienic Gallery of New London and will be hosting a Veterans Art Show beginning April 29th. Paul reached out to me to help him gather our amazing Connecticut veteran artist to be part of this upcoming extraordinary exhibition. Additionally, I just hung a new exhibition at the 100 Pearl Street Gallery that features both myself and Vietnam Veteran, Arthur Backstrom. The previous exhibition featured my work and Air Force Veteran, Michelle Thomas. In the past, I have curated and organized a veteran’s show at the Amos Bull House in Hartford that collaborated with Connecticut Landmarks.

What kind of long-term impact do you see the arts manifesting on veterans and society as a whole?

The lasting impact I hope to see for all veterans is the ability to get back out into the general public, to be able to shine like the stars that they always have been. To be able to trust themselves and the community in which they live. I say this because when I first started displaying my work, I was the shy artist who was isolated and untrusting of the public. Through the arts I’ve learned to be able to trust and communicate with everyone. Today I’m a social butterfly. I hope to see all of my artists become social butterflies.

In what ways, in your opinion, does the Veterans Art Foundation contribute to the cultural vibrancy of the Greater Hartford region? 

Although we do love Hartford we work with veterans throughout the entire state of Connecticut. We hope to inspire all veterans who live in our great state, and for those veterans to inspire others. We believe the arts can break down cultural differences and bring all veterans in all communities together as one. The arts have a way of spreading vibrant positive light and energy across all barriers. By hosting art exhibitions and our recent mask making classes, as well as collaborating with outside organizations, we will be able to continue our mission of inspiring and motivating our artists and hopefully the surrounding communities.

If you could summarize your artistic journey in three words, what would they be? And why?

Peace, Love and Unity. Like the Great Bob Marley sang, “One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel alright.” Peace for the peaceful state of mind photography puts me in. Love for the love of photography and love of sharing and inspiring others. Unity for the power of uniting people, especially my veterans to seek and practice the arts together

Any further comments?

Thank you for the opportunity to spread our message of bringing the Arts to our veterans.

Photo: Edward Santos | via esantosstudios.com

 To see more of his work, you can visit his website: http://www.esantosstudios.com/

Or follow him on Instagram: @esantos_artist_photographer

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