Carlos Rene Pacheco started his undergraduate degree in astronomy, but changed his mind, switching his degree to photography.
Since graduating from the University of Arizona, Pacheco has fully embraced his love for craftsmanship, becoming an acclaimed photographer. He passed on his experience and knowledge to students across the country.
Originally from Arizona, Pacheco developed a love for capturing intriguing and thought-provoking moments. Fascinated by the world around us and the galaxy in which our planet shares space, he always thought in a larger framework than most. From an early age, Pacheco developed a love for the mystery and glory of space and all that it contains. This love has inspired much of his past and current projects.
Since earning his master’s degree in 2014, Pacheco has been heavily involved in teaching at universities across the Midwest. But that hasn’t stopped him from showing his work in three different solo exhibitions and nine group exhibitions since obtaining his BFA in 2011. Due to his exceptional work, he has already obtained several awards for his work in New York, Ohio and Arizona. .
Pacheco is a new professor at Central Michigan University in the Department of Art and Design, teaching photography and art classes at Wightman Hall.
“If I can’t find anything interesting at ground level, what does the world look like up there,” Pacheco said.
Pacheco spoke with Central Michigan Life about his inspirations and experiences through the prism of his art and his life.
CM Life: Where are you from and where did you go to school?
I’m originally from Tucson, Arizona. My family has been there since the 1850s. On my mother’s side, we are one of the founding families of Tucson. I also earned my undergraduate degree/BFA in photography from the University of Arizona in Tucson. After that, I went to graduate school at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where I earned my MFA in Photography and Integrated Media.
What is the difference between a degree in photography and a degree in integrated media?
Embedded Media (in the Ohio University curriculum) was added because the definition of photography extends beyond the traditional 2D flat image. Thus, it allows you to work more with different types of media instead of just capturing photos.
How did your hometown influence your interest in space?
When I was a kid, I was surrounded by these images, especially on the U of A campus, with all its lunar labs making parts for the satellites and even some of the probes sent into space. These probes would then return images of Mars, especially with the popularity of the Mars Rover at the time. It inspired a lot of what I do and have done with photographic subjects involving space and questioning/understanding certain technologies that we all use today.
What made you go from majoring in astronomy to majoring in photography?
Like many people, when you grow up you have a romanticized version of what you would like to pursue as a career. I’ve always loved going to the library and browsing images from space, from different planets, galaxies and nebulae. . When I got to college, I thought if I could get past math class, they’d be like, “Hey, we’ve got a telescope you can look through, come sit here and stare at the stars all day. “, and it was not. how it worked. In reality, it was much more complicated than expected. I entered the photography program to learn the technical skills, so I could look at stars and planets and move on to astrophotography. But the program I was in focused more on the conceptual side of photography, rather than the technical skills I would need to pursue astrophotography. Then I realized that I much preferred to explore and travel, so astrophotography became an underlying priority of my work.
What is the most memorable place you have been where photography has taken you?
My five years in North Dakota were really interesting. Growing up in Arizona, you have mountains, desert valleys, snow-capped pine forests, and other varied landscapes across the state. North Dakota is very flat. So I used (the flatness) of an endless horizon line as inspiration for my photography. Because I could see so far from the ground, I wanted to see how far and how much I could see from the sky, whether it was right above my head or from an airplane or drone. It really pushed me to really find who I am as an artist and as a person. North Dakota is not like Michigan. There are almost no trees anywhere so you can see for miles in all directions.
How has your time at CMU been so far?
Its been good! I currently live between here (Mount Pleasant) and Midland so am still trying to figure out the layout of the area as this is only my 4th week here. But it was fun working with all the new students and teaching classes I had never taught before. (I also) understood how students in this field think and how I can integrate my experience and perspective to inspire my students to look at their art in different ways. But so far it’s been a great experience at CMU.
What is your main focus in photography right now?
I’m interested in the technological side of things. Because he’s advanced so much in such a short time, we’re at a point where everyone has a camera in their back pocket. To some degree, everyone is a photographer – millions of images are taken every day. This curiosity eventually led me to live street cameras in famous places like Times Square or Abbey Road, where thousands of people visit every day. While watching, I noticed that tourists were constantly taking photos. It got me thinking, “I wonder if I could find this photo?” So I would match the time someone took a photo on the webcam to the actual photo the person took on their phone or camera.
Before CMU, what classes did you teach and where did you teach them?
I taught a few introductory photography classes in graduate school, but most of my teaching took place at Minnesota State University, Moorhead. Moorhead, Minnesota and Fargo, North Dakota are two small towns separated by a river. So I lived in Fargo but taught in Moorhead. I’ve taught everything from Intro to Photography to Darkroom Classes, Intro to Digital Photography and courses I’ve created such as Identity in Photography, Storytelling in Photography, and Photography experimental. I also taught non-photographic courses, such as contemporary art theory and a course on how to be a better technical and professional artist.
What is the most memorable event that happened while you were taking photos?
Before moving to North Dakota, I was living on a farm with a friend at the time, now engaged, and discovered something interesting about the state and the Midwest in general. I learned that farmers had what is called burn piles, where farmers would burn any excess materials or waste because they were so far from a town. I found this very strange, coming from Arizona where a stray spark could catch something on fire and burn down an entire landscape. So when I moved there, I was spotting the smoke coming from those piles of burns and was going to photograph them, capturing what was burning. One day I spotted smoke, went to take pictures and as I moved around this huge fire I looked down and saw a little kitten. I was surprised by how this kitten was still alive inside that fire. After several attempts, I finally managed to pull her out from under the flames. Finally, she found herself in this pool of mud, staring at me. Her brother came out of a small outhouse and came under me to warm up. The fire kitten then came to me too, and I was able to take him to a vet. When I arrived they asked me what I wanted to name them. For the kitten that was in the fire, I came up with the name Pyro. Then the vet had the idea to name his brother Maniac. Pyro and Maniac have been a big part of my fiancée and I ever since.