“I’m more of a photography fan than a photographer,” said Juan Fuentes with a laugh. “I don’t really consider myself a professional photographer, it’s more like documenting my life or my surroundings.”
Fuentes was born in Mexico but is a son of Denver’s Northside Curator of @olddenver Instagram account and documentary film about the historical and yet disappearing cultural landscapes of the city. Through his two photographic work and others about the curating #olddenver Hashtag, Fuentes creates a digital archive of the Denver communities he grew up in. Through his documentation, he wants to promote spaces that he believes will be forgotten in the current narrative of the city.
For Fuentes, it was natural for him to capture the authentic soul of Denver. “I’ve always loved taking pictures and shooting around on my phone all the time.” He explained this about tacos and horchata on the cornerstone of the Sante Fe Arts District El Taco De MexicoFuentes was joined by other Denver documentary filmmakers and artists such as Armando Geneyro and Angelica Jimenez.
It was only a year and a half ago that Fuentes took his recordings seriously and began working with a professional camera. Inspired by street photography and the burgeoning Denver scene, as well as the journalistic aspect of the genre, Fuentes decided that through photos he could tell the stories of the marginalized communities he grew up with and surrounded himself with. “I can not write. II think it’s easier to create a story for myself with a picture, ”he said.
At the end of 2017, Fuentes opened the Instagram account @olddenver to further expand the online presence of the authentic Denver. He states that he was originally inspired by that Theyshootn Photography community, the idea of Geneyro. After seeing the effects of images and stories from different angles brought about by the Theyshootn platformFuentes tried to take it to a hyperlocal level by documenting the Denver community and creating a spot of notoriety for the narrow circle of artists and documentary filmmakers in the city.
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While @olddenver’s Instagram account and hashtag document “old Denver,” it doesn’t necessarily mean he totally disapproves of the new aspects of the city. “It’s more about embracing the culture I grew up with – embracing our roots,” he said. “It doesn’t necessarily complain about the ‘new’ Denver.”
This is in some ways a response to the constant flow of new transplants into Denver and the way the city is being marketed to those considering moving to Denver – or already on the way. Fuentes’ personal work and @olddenver are dedicated to accurately portraying the human element of the city. For many of the new transplants to the city, Fuentes sees a lack of connection with Denver’s long-standing historic communities as people move into the city and then into their own bladderss.
He discusses how nA worthwhile attempt at living in the city’s long-standing communities can result in a lack of commitment to the aspects that make Denver unique. For Fuentes, many who come to the city try “not really to invest in people, but in companies”. And in such cases, the city’s marketing lacks the city’s authentic culture and the real communities it represents.
@olddenver – or even more, the archive that Fuentes is actively building up – is an antithesis to this. While many of the online displays in Denver are supposed to show the new developments in the city, the glittering apartment towers and the industrial-chic brew Pubs and apple S.crack-lAs with the pharmacies, there are few displays of the authentic Denver communities, architecture, and food. @olddenver shows off the other aspects of the city, the lesser-seen enclaves.
“They improve our city’s online presence. T.They don’t show what it’s really like, “Fuentes said of the plethora of real estate accounts on Instagram. “They don’t show these facilities,” he explained as he pointed to the El Taco De Mexico building. “They don’t advance our culture – – They are mostly trying to get rid of it. ” From Denver to Fuentes, this culture is not necessarily based on racial or ethnic lines. He views the destruction of authentic Denver culture as an economic problem that stems from growing inequality within the city. “It was the lower class that always created culture,” he said.
Fuentes describes how residents of the city – whether long-term or newcomers – can respect the culture of Denver and how important it is to be active in the respective neighborhood. “Just walk around the neighborhood, be part of the community,” he said. In his view, as well as Geneyro and Jimenez’s, one of the best ways to respect authentic Denver is to support your local businesses. Jimenez shared that she had been visiting El Taco De Mexico for years and knowing that her money supported the local community and the friendly faces behind the counter influenced her decision to eat there. All three shared Disapproval of newer residents’ focus on bringing chains to Denver from other cities (like Shake Shack and In-N-Out). Instead of celebrating Denver’s unique and authentic businesses and culture, they discussed how people are trying to make it to another city.
With rapid growth and investment comes a need for responsibility. As Denver has grown and continues to grow, its long-standing communities and cultural enclaves deserve their place in the city’s history and image. There is a demand and need for the authentic accounts of Denver life to be spread through social media and the power of the modern digital landscape. Through the archive and the community of the @ olddenver platform as well as through Fuentes’ personal work as a street photographer and documentary filmmaker and the work of his friends and colleagues like Geneyro and Jimenez, There is a new wave of needed imagery that offers small but impactful glimpses of the untold or shelved stories that make up the true identity of Mile High City.
All photographs by Kyle Cooper.