Global photographer to exhibit work in Downey

 Virginia Yunes captured this image during a festival in Xango, Nigeria in 2006. The scars on the children's faces emphasize their ethnic identity.

Virginia Yunes captured this image during a festival in Xango, Nigeria in 2006. The scars on the children's faces emphasize their ethnic identity.

DOWNEY – Virginia Maria Yunes, an Brazilian photographer who has captured images from more than 40 countries around the globe, will have her work exhibited at Stay Gallery. Titled “Right to Live – Stories Without Borders,” the exhibit opens next Friday, April 17.

Yunes is a student of fine arts who also has a master’s degree in Nutritional Studies and is currently pursuing a doctorate in Photography from the State University of Santa Catarina in Florianopolis, Brazil. She was born in Santa Fe, Argentina, but moved to Florianopolis, Brazil with her family at a young age to escape the country’s political turmoil during the 1970s.

She spent the majority of her childhood working along side Catholic missionaries, which gave her the opportunity to experience diverse cultures from people throughout the country.

This yearning to experience and learn more about different cultures eventually led her to take a year off and volunteer as a photographer for a non-profit organization who was doing work in the Amazon rainforest. This began Yunes’s career as a documentary photographer.

In 1998, she visited the country of Guinea Bissau in Africa, where a civil war broke out four days after her arrival. She ended up staying in Africa for almost two years where her photography became a tool for communication and reporting.

Afterwards, Yunes worked as a photographer for Caritas, UNICEF, and multiple other nonprofits. She has acquired great experience as a documentary photographer, and has visited more than 40 countries. Many images she has been able to capture have a moving story that deals with the detrimental struggles of humanity around the world.

When Yunes was approached about showcasing her work at Stay Gallery, she said she was elated to participate, as it allowed her to share her experiences and continue raising awareness about the dire conditions of the people she encountered.

One of her most powerful works was a photo essay project of children in socially vulnerable situations. She believes in the power of art to raise awareness, transform the views and hearts of her audience, and inspire people to act against some of the social injustices becoming more prevalent in the world today.

“I absolutely love that Stay Gallery is advocating on behalf of children in their community to increase arts educational programming, I wish we had something like this in Brazil,” she said. “This is what drew me most to showcase my work here.”

The exhibit kicks off Stay Gallery’s 2nd Annual International Artist Series, which began last year when Anne Rigney, of Roscommon, Ireland, traveled to Downey to exhibit her works to deepen the relationship between the two sister cities.

Roscommon was the birthplace of John Gately Downey, the former California governor of which this city is named.

“Our goal is to bring at least one international artist every year to Downey,” said Valentin Flores, executive director of Stay Gallery and curator of the “Right to Live” exhibit. “We want to create a cultural exchange program where we are not only bringing international artists to Downey, but sending local artists to different parts of the world.”

The International Artist Series is special to Stay Gallery because the artists involved will be donating all proceeds of art sales from the event to jumpstart Stay Gallery’s fundraising efforts for its youth initiative, Stay Young.

“Stay Young aims to prepare today’s youth for the 21st Century by integrating the arts into current educational standards,” said Flores. “By providing various avenues for students to think, learn, and play creatively, we can build the foundation for the city of Downey to become the creative capital of Southeast Los Angeles.

“Our youth initiative is our most ambitious program since we started Stay Gallery,” he added. “Put simply, bringing arts education to our youth has become the soul of our organization. We need to inspire them while they are young.”

To kick-off its fundraising campaign for Stay Young, the gallery will host an international wine tasting event for the opening night of “Right to Live” on April 17 with doors opening at 8 p.m. The price of admission is $50 with all proceeds helping fund upcoming student exhibitions from April to June in Downtown Downey. More than 15,000 people are expected to attend all student exhibitions and festivals during these months, Stay Gallery officials said.

To help support Stay Gallery’s Stay Young initiative, visit



Published: April 9, 2015 - Volume 13 - Issue 52