We had the good fortune of connecting with Emilio Villanueva and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Emilio, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
From a young age, I’ve had a passion for visual and performing arts. The first two hobbies that swept me up were dance and videography. The first opportunity to blend them together on a large scale was when I performed at a dance show while simultaneously recording the event. I loved having the ability to be in front of the camera, but being behind the camera was when I truly felt a sense of myself. A year before embarking on my dance photography journey, I worked on a video titled “Relation. Ship.” that was conceptualized by my former dance teacher, Deanna. It was created as an effort to stop the Permian Highway pipeline from being built across the Texas Hill Country. I was proud to be able to provide Deanna with the tools she needed to spread her message of using dance as a medium for activism. I walked away from that experience longing to give another artist the chance to use art as a method to have their voice heard. By that point, I spent a year honing in on my craft with photography. The thought of doing a dance photoshoot had crossed my mind, but the opportunity to collaborate with a creative didn’t present itself until I worked with my former dance classmate, Gracie.

Driving back home from that photoshoot was such a euphoric feeling, the gears were turning in my head from the moment I stepped into my car. I thought, what if I created a social media platform for dancers based in Houston? It would be a great way to encourage and empower artists of all levels and specialties. I wasted no time in creating Villanueva Dance Photography and began scheduling 1 session per month at no cost to ensure someone had the opportunity to be recognized. The process of booking a session is very much a collaborative effort. In short, it begins by selecting a location that compliments the artist’s concept. Then, we lay down the remainder of the groundwork by creating a mood board that consists of the dancer’s strengths. On the day of the photoshoot, we execute the poses and action shots and slowly evolve from them.

There are many things I look forward to such as continuing to meet creatives from different parts of the world, transitioning into studio photography, and reconnecting with my videography roots. Above all, I aspire to go beyond posting photographs of the dancers I work with. There’s a variety of things I want to begin promoting such as the artists’ website, classes they are teaching, or a shout-out to a studio/organization just to name a few. I hope things eventually get to a point where my platform makes an impact when it comes to the power of networking. If a friendship or a working relationship blossoms out of an artist meeting another artist featured on my page, then I feel I’ve done my job.

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.

What sets me apart from others is a work in progress – but I have an idea of what I want it to be. I hope it doesn’t come across the wrong way given that photography is the core of what I bring, but my ultimate goal is to divert the attention away from the photographs I post. The main thing I’d like for consumers to take away is more interest in the artist. I want them to ask themselves, who is this? What’s their story and what more are they capable of? I want to distance myself from the whole technical side (such as the camera gear, lighting, and editing) and begin investing time into nurturing the marketing aspect of it. That way, I can apply innovative ways to give artists a stronger spotlight.

Considering that I am aiming to celebrate all styles of dance, one of the challenges I was bound to come across was working with a genre that I had limited knowledge on. As a photographer, my main priority is to ensure there is thorough communication. Not having firsthand experience with the type of dance my client specializes in can limit that communication. It was difficult at the beginning, there were days where I felt like I wasn’t qualified. It took some time to get back on my feet and realize that I have nothing to prove – I have everything to learn.

One of the most valuable lessons I picked up over the years is that it’s okay to learn as you go along – no matter what your journey is. Life is about taking steps forwards and then taking some backwards. It’s about going through highs and going through lows. So take all the time you need to become the person that you want to be. As long as you are passionate about what you do and you can see your growth over time, go full force. Get out there, put in the work, and fail. Where’s the fun if you’re not learning something?

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I hope it’s okay for me to list some of my favorite photography spots, this one is for any photographers out there!

Art locations:
Smither Park

Nature locations:
Challenger Seven Memorial Park
El Franco Lee Park
The Japanese Garden
Memorial Park (Eastern Glades)
Mercer Botanic Gardens
Sheldon Lake Park

Urban locations:
Buffalo Bayou Park
Gerald D. Hines Waterwall Park
Helen’s Park
Heritage Park Overlook Basin
Sesquicentennial Park

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’m not sure how much I’d like to delve into this one as it’s a bit personal but my Mom is a major source of strength and inspiration as a survivor of breast cancer. Even though she’s alive and healthy – her support is always with me.

Instagram: www.instagram.com/v.dancephotography

Other: Relation. Ship. | DraeDesigns feat. “Boat,” Mountain Man https://youtu.be/FIVOag5Zffo

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutHTX is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.