Local photographer has first MAC show

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Charles H. Featherstone/Columbia Basin Herald Photographer Justin Alaniz in front of some of the portraits he took as part of ‘Faces of Strangers’ project. Alaniz had his first show at the Moses Lake Museum and Art Center on Friday.

MOSES LAKE — You could be forgiven for thinking the photographer whose work was on display Friday evening in the Moses Lake Museum and Art Center was internationally famous or something.

Justin Alaniz barely had a moment to himself as fans and subjects of his work, as well as his large family, want at least a moment of his time. To say hello. To thank him.

Or just to talk.

“You’ll have to forgive me,” he said. “It’s a busy night.”

It’s Alaniz’ first show at the MAC. In fact, it’s Alaniz’ first show anywhere, though he is no stranger to seeing his photographs in public.

His work has appeared on billboards, and the photos he took of the Moses Lake School District’s 15 schools — in his stark, almost dream-like style — grace the inside of the district’s meeting room.

And now he stands in the midst of his fans, many of them the strangers whose portraits he took as part of his “Faces of Strangers” project, a calm, centered but very gentle presence amidst the bustle.

“I started on film in the late 1990s,” Alaniz told the Columbia Basin Herald. “I loved pictures that created emotion within myself.”

“That’s what drove me to the artful end of photography,” he added. “It’s not just something beautiful, but something relevant.”

The Moses Lake High School graduate (class of 1996) and married father of two is also a registered nurse and works caring for people in hospice.

“A lot of my photos are attached to memories of people I’ve cared for,” he said.

He began his “Faces of Strangers” project in 2014, when he started taking pictures of people on the street.

“There’s a great portrait within everybody,” Alaniz said. “For ‘Faces of Strangers,’ it was about suspending disbelief. If you will believe in me, I’ll show you what I see in you.”

And he has “Faces of Strangers” displayed as a great collage, a combination of color and black-and-white prints.

“It’s important to me to give. That’s why I’m in hospice,” he said.

And very likely why he takes photographs, too.

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached via email at countygvt@columbiabasinherald.com.

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