Anchorage is a town surrounded by a backdrop of snow covered mountains, clear skies and oceans. Anybody can walk outside of their back door, and take an eye catching photograph of our massive playground to marvel at. While this is unique and a great way to capture one element of photography, Anchorage has been missing a place where more simple pictures can be taken. A place that focuses on the subject rather than the backdrop was a place that Oscar Avellaneda-Cruz recognized our town needed for its photographers, and decided to do something about.
A photographer himself, Avellaneda-Cruz is a 33-year-old lifelong Alaskan, growing up and living in East Anchorage. He has been taking photos since he discovered the art in high school, and now runs his own photography business as his primary career. People are generally Avellaneda-Cruz’s favorite subject to photograph, but he explores many other areas as well.
“I am into the idea of visually documenting and communicating identity as it relates to people and place. So, that looks like a lot of travel related photography and documentary photography for me,” Avellaneda-Cruz said.
With the combination of Avellaneda-Cruz’s photography expertise and community oriented style, he had always wanted to create a space where others could come and share his passion with him.
“Back when ACW first opened in 2012 I was approached by Craig, who runs the print shop side of the place. He asked me about the idea of an ‘art gym,’ meaning an area for people in the community to come and utilize the space for their music, art, photography, etc. I couldn’t help at the time because I had just gotten married and started a family, but the idea stuck with me. I held onto it and now that it’s happening, it’s really neat to see how far the idea has developed,” Avellaneda-Cruz said.
On Feb. 1, Ave Studio opened on the upstairs floor of Anchorage Community Works. The space is small but features many different tools that photographers all over Anchorage can now use to better their portraiture skills. Backdrops, V-flats, a hair and makeup area and storage space are a few of the elements that Avellaneda-Cruz has worked into this space. The walls are all painted black, with a single window on the south side of the room that allows natural daylight to fill the space, and be manipulated by photographers.
It only took Avellaneda-Cruz and his brother less than a month to put the studio together. Avellaneda-Cruz is extremely passionate about photography and the community that surrounds it and wanted to get Ave Studio up and running as soon as possible. The space can be rented out by anyone who requests it and books an appointment on the studio’s website.
“My hope for the future of this space is that I can find a few other people to help me manage the studio, and we can run it based on memberships with ACW,” Avellaneda-Cruz said.
As for the future of this photography studio, Avellaneda-Cruz extends an invitation to the space beyond just photographers. He wants others to be able to utilize what Ave Studio has to offer and feel just as welcome.
“I set this up so other photographers and visual creatives can make use of a space to go create. There’s nothing quite like this in town right now, with the natural window light and the black walls. While I initially built it for photographers specifically, I am beginning to realize that truly anyone who needs a space to let creativity flow can use this room. All of these alternative ways a studio can help start artists collaborate is where I see the direction of Ave Studio going,” Avellaneda-Cruz said.
Ave Studio started out as a vision in the back of Avellaneda-Cruz’s mind, and after years of waiting for the right time and placed to approach him, he has made it happen. Now, photographers of all levels can find their way to Ave Studio and experience the space for themselves.