Interview: Christopher Flora-Tostado

Christopher is a second-year Ph.D student of clinical psychology who currently resides in sunny San Diego, California. He discovered photography through Instagram and started taking photos as a hobby about two years ago. He is inspired by artists who use their local surroundings as places to discover beauty that is easy to overlook. His photographs are as close to raw as possible in order to present the simplest view of what he finds. 

Christopher Flora-Tostado

Q: In your view, how do you see Instagram as being an upcoming role in displaying and sharing photography? Any negative aspect? 

A: Instagram represents probably the least expensive and most accessible way to develop proficiency with a form of artistic self-expression and actually be appreciated for it. Just like in music where you have these bedroom artists becoming famous, talent has a new way to be discovered and cultivated. Some worry that photography is getting diluted and cheapened, but I think the growing audience should be seen as an opportunity.

Sharing a passion with like-minded people around the world is intoxicating. I think what’s particularly seductive about Instagram is the immediate nature of the interactions. That kind of attention very much acts like a drug in the brain. You get this quick burst of reward and almost as quickly you’re wondering where the feeling went. No one wants to turn friendships into drugs, but it can happen against our will, and then we get down on ourselves about it. At times it’s all so hard to understand, but if we look at it closely enough we can see some of the best and worst of ourselves. 

I think there is a great tension between the covetous artistic sphere and this insecure social miasma. The tension plays out in all of us and I think the universality of that experience can actually be comforting. I’d say the biggest pitfall is if you begin to treat authenticity like it’s a commodity to be hoarded and defended. It’s so hard to stay settled in simply valuing the process of sharing and appreciating. The ravenous ego wants to be recognized so it’s easy to lose sight of purpose and get caught up in evaluation. 

Christopher Flora-Tostado

Q: You mention that you study psychology. Can you tell me a little bit about how your studies have changed your perspective on your life and your relatedness with your surroundings?

A: Something I've really enjoyed about studying Psychology is that it has helped me form both a sense of identity and a sense of belonging. The science tries to refine ideas about what it's generally like to be human, and the clinical practice is about bringing those lessons to bear on a specific person's condition. In between the universal concepts and the specific actions is a vast space to play and be creative. As a new practitioner I'm getting to explore how to be empathetic in a way that matches my personality. In the process I'm learning a lot about myself. I see a lot of parallels between practicing psychology and sharing photos on Instagram. I think it's no coincidence that I enjoy both of these things.

Christopher Flora-Tostado

Q: Do you enjoy music? What have you been listening to lately? 

A: Yes, I’m strictly a digital consumer now, but I have a CD collection gathering dust, and I still love listening to whole albums. Now that I am back at school I mostly listen to music that allows me to stay focused while I read and write. I've been listening to Stars of the Lid (and Their Refinement of the Decline), Nicholas Szczepanik (Please Stop Loving Me), Tim Hecker (Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again), Downliners Sekt (Silent Ascent), Heathered Pearls (Body Complex), Luomo (Vocal City), William Basinski, and Vladislav Delay.

I like the idea too that what music we enjoy is reflected in what visually appeals to us. Why wouldn’t they be connected? Maybe it’s fortunate that it’s all so complex that we’ll never really understand it well. One challenge in identifying a direct link is that there are so many ways someone can enjoy either medium. For instance, my musical preferences right now are largely pragmatic. I don’t know how much that says about me as a person. Similarly, my preference for certain genres of photography changes often too. Photos reveal purpose as much as personal taste. There are so many reasons to take and enjoy photos. Even the culture of Instagram is changing constantly. Trying to make guesses about what people are going to like is like palm reading. 

Christopher Flora-Tostado
Christopher Flora-Tostado

Be sure to follow Christopher on Instagram: @leanin2it