The Kissed Face Interview

Photographs by Arturo Oliva Pedroza
Interview via emails, October 2018

Earlier this month, San Francisco-based photographer Arturo Oliva Pedroza opened a solo show of photography titled Kissed Face at San Francisco’s Book & Job Gallery, capturing the fleeting and intimate encounters one might discover while staying out all night on the streets of a foreign land.

Alongside the opening, Arturo released a book of the same name, the occasion marking both the debut of his first publication as well as the inaugural single-artist release from Group Study. Select images from the work, and documentation of the gallery installation, appear below alongside his reflections.


Arturo, first, congratulations on your new book! Where were you in your life when you made these pictures, what brought you abroad and what were you looking for?

Thank you for helping me put this together and thank you for inviting me to be a part of Group Study. I was 20 years old when I took these photographs. I studied at Art Center in Los Angeles before I received a scholarship to study photography at Parsons Paris. Even with a scholarship, I didn't have money to go, but with a tax return and a side job I bought a one way ticket to Paris. I was looking for a change or just something new.  I didn't know French and after that year I still don't.


When you look back on these pictures, how do they make you feel, what do you see in them?

It feels good to have these images together. I have finally gotten to see peoples reactions to the work as I have been putting this out and from what I gather people usually see a vignette of a night out in a city. I see all the friends I shared a drink with, and let me stay on their couch or in their bed, and those who kindly shared a meal with me.


You made these pictures nearly a decade ago. How have your feelings towards the images changed over that time, why do you think you were able to release the project this year?

In 2009, I started developing and scanning my film to share memories with the new friends I was making in Paris via Facebook and Flickr. The photos ended up first on the web and took on a life of their own. I had the opportunity to print them while I was working at RayKo Photo Center last year. I see them in a whole new way now that they are physical objects.


What did you learn about yourself, and your art practice, while making this book?

I made a community working on this book. I always thought of photography as a solo mission. While I scanned,  printed, framed all these photos myself, along the way I collaborated and worked with so many amazing photographers in the Bay Area to make it happen. 


What do you imagine your 20 year old self would think about how the project turned out?

I kept my 20 year old self in mind as I was making decisions on the book. I remember exclusively shooting on Fuji 800z and Neopan 1600 back then. I liked the grain and the softness that was produced with high ISO. Fuji stopped making both films shortly after I came back, and then the iPhone became a big thing. A lot has changed since that time. I think the book is what I would have done then if I had the opportunity to make something.