Stories produced by St. Peter's Journalism Students
The two men stare at each other with intensity. Their foreheads are touching and it seems like one of them has a clear shot at the other’s face. Spectators sipped champagne and feasted on hors d’oeuvres while gazing in enthrallment at the photograph of the two men sparring. The photograph was featured at St. Peter’s University’s 2nd annual photography exhibition titled: Through the Lens.
Juan Cardenas, a St. Peter’s alumnus from the class of 2009 and the artist who took the photographs of the boxers, featured his work at the exhibition. ‘Left Upper Cut’, the title of the photograph, was one of the crowd favorites.
“The photographer of the boxing pieces was [of] my former student, Juan Cardenas, who was a Spanish major,” said Father Mark DeStephano, the Romance Language professor. “Wonderful student, incredibly talented, always interested in photography, and now that he’s graduated, he is still really interested in photography and hopes to make it an actual career one day.”
Cardenas was taught by Father Mark DeStephano who served as his mentor and role model.
“I love words so I was kind of torn between my love of literature and my love of photography and I guess my love of literature and languages kind of won out especially since I fell in love with DeStephano and his classes,” said Cardenas.
“St. Peter’s doesn’t have photography major but they have the composite major which is pretty cool and I actually considered doing it for a while but, again, I fell in love with DeStephano,” added Cardenas. “He’s a great teacher and I love to read and write so I kind of went in that route.”
Having graduated with a degree in Spanish as well as having minors in Visual Arts and Italian, Cardenas has a wide range of passions that do not just start and end with photography.
“I love Spanish literature,” said Cardenas. “When I was in high school I had this teacher [named] Senora Ana Garcia and she actually took us to Spain.” “I kind of fell in love with Spain and it’s my goal to get back to Spain and eventually live there.”
While at St. Peter’s, Cardenas was immersed in different clubs and activities. He was photo editor for the school newspaper, The Pauw Wow. He was a performer of Argus Eyes (and was also, for some time, vice president of the club, although, that was short-lived due to Cardenas’ passion for performing rather than leading) and was also part of Pavo Society. In addition, he was a Resident Assistant for three years at Murray Hall and then 140.
“I was involved to the point of almost being over-involved,” said Cardenas.
“I like to spread myself thin and I love St. Peter’s, that’s why I wanted to do so much.”
Cardenas’ irrefutable passion for photography began when he was a child.
“It started off as a hobby when I was a kid and then after working with different photographers I thought, ‘wait this is something that I could do, something I could make in to a career, I want to be known for this’.”
“It is extremely rare to see him without a camera of some kind,” said Vishnu Nayak, Cardenas’ bestfriend. “It’s to the point that people will ask him, ‘where’s your camera?’ if he’s not visibly carrying one.”
“I’ve really gotten in to cell phone photography,” said Cardenas. “One of my favorite photographers, Chase Jarvis, wrote a book and has an iPhone app, it’s called the ‘Best Camera’ app, and it’s based on his book. He says ‘the best camera that you have is the one you have on you’. “I try to carry my camera with me all the time because you never know what you’ll find.”
Cardenas comes from a humble, Cuban home in Hudson County that includes his mom and sister.
“My parents were born in Cuba and they came to this country in ’65,” he said. “My mom lived in West New York most of her life as a kid then moved to Secaucus.”
Cardenas said that he would like to be relatively famous one day, but on his own terms. (He would prefer to do without the big money.)
“I would like to be famous but in the way that I define fame,” he said.
“Someone looks at my photo and knows I took that photo but it doesn’t have to be on a huge scale. It would be cool if internationally, there was a photo I was known for. That would be kind of awesome. So I would love to be famous in that sense but I don’t want to be a celebrity. I already am a celebrity to my family so I don’t need to be one for anyone else.”
In regards to his passion for the art of photography, Cardenas affirmed that schooling for photography is not a necessity but it definitely helps to hone skills. Also, he emphasizes that anyone can be a photographer, but it takes great determination to do it professionally.
“I don’t think you need to go to school [for photography],” he said. “I think everyone knows what they like, people know what is pleasing to their eye, what they find appealing so I encourage people to just shoot. Granted, I don’t want to undermine the talent of professional photographers because it’s not just being able to shoot a pretty photo. It’s being able to do it consistently, time after time, and knowing that you can’t re-do certain moments. You can’t be like ‘Oh wait, just stop the ceremony for a quick second, I missed that’. So, I think anyone can be a photographer, I think you have to be really determined to be a professional photographer.”
“As an event photographer, you have to realize that you’re shooting the same type of event over and over again but, you have to treat every event as your first time because these people have seen your images,” he said.
“They’ve seen their friends’ images, they don’t want the same images that somebody else is taking. Sure they’ll want the same look, maybe similar poses but they want their album or their event to be special to them so I think one of the great things about being an event photographer is it keeps you on your toes, because you’re shooting different things all the time. You have to make you work for them.”
Cardenas is currently a licensed translator for the US Social Security Administration and he is comfortable with his position, for now.
“I wouldn’t be able to be a licensed translator without my degree, “ said Cardenas.
However, Cardenas has aspirations to open his own studio and eventually pursue other dreams, too.
“My ultimate goal is to open my own studio and just shoot events for the rest of my life,” said Cardenas.
“Once I’m in my golden ages, I want to open a bar/restaurant/pool hall with a homey feel. My idea of retirement is an apartment is Spain that I visit six or seven months out of the year.”