Today we have a guest post featuring the story and photography of Beto Soto, one of the youth involved with The AjA Project of San Diego. The AjA Project uses a model of participatory photography to give youth a voice in their communities and position them as change-makers. This blog is curated by Cecilia Pessoa, LIRS Communications Associate.
Beto Soto, age 20, was born in a small pueblo town in Mexico. After immigrating to the United States in 2000, Beto and his family moved repeatedly, from town to town, in search of work and a place to stay. It was during these tumultuous years when Beto struggled to make meaningful friendships and cope with his family’s volatile living situation that he turned to art. “Art was a way for me to make something permanent and beautiful, a way to create a different world, a place to escape.”
Today, Beto is an accomplished painter and photographer who has found his voice, and his home, in art. After his family moved to San Diego and he stumbled upon the legendary Chicano Park, Beto realized the significance of art not just for him, but for his culture. After this, there was no looking back.
It was during high school, that Beto began to refine his style and that he joined The AjA Project. “Before I was using art just with friends- doing portraits and fashion photography- with AjA, I began to really express myself and show more of who I am through my art.” Not only does Beto’s style now reflect elements of his identity and life, he now uses art to raise awareness and advocate for positive community and social change. Through his progressive work on the Youth Media Team of AjA Project, Beto has documented issues including the importance of public art and LGBT representation. His work gives voice to many like him, people struggling to find a home- a sense of belonging- in San Diego.
Beto continues to make art a central part of his life, with the goal of turning his passion into a full-time career.
The AjA Project is a 501c3 non-profit organization based in San Diego, California that uses participatory photography to transform the lives of underserved youth and communities.
To contact Beto Soto or see more of his work, please visit his website, BetoSoto.com. I invite you to further explore through The AjA Project blog or their Permanent Collection of photography. Read previous posts in the Through Courageous Eyes series.
If you are a refugee or migrant and would like to showcase your artwork as part of the Through Courageous Eyes series, please contact Cecilia Pessoa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Banner photo credit: Johanan Ottensooser