Oakland Artists in Conversation: Santana Bellas and Summer Mason

An intimate artists-in-conversation piece between two black gay and queer creatives from Oakland, CA. This project shows the photographer Santana Bellas and filmmaker Summer Mason documenting their fun and carefree personalities while openly engaging in a back and forth conversation.

Summer interviews Santana

Street hot dog or taco truck burrito? And why?

I would have to say taco truck burritos all the way! The beans, rice and veggies wrapped in a tortilla, it’s hands down the best.

What is your biggest challenge shooting film?

For me, it’s image review. Since I’m shooting on film I’m not able to see how the photo looks until I get the roll developed. It brings excitement but also some curiosity about the photo as well.

Why wear olive? What does that color say about you?

Olive falls in the earth tones color scheme and it’s such a calming color too. Also, the color represents my personality and how I am.

What was it like working together for the first time and why do you continue to work with me?

I remember us working on the 4th issue of ONX magazine out in Richmond Point. It was a fun shoot with a lot of great talent around. Being able to work with you was super natural and easy. There was a nice organic flow and overall vibe. I continued to work with you because you’re just so easy to connect and create with and it made the projects so much more fun.

What type of folks do you like to photograph?

I love to capture my friends. All my friends are unique in their own special way and I love it! It’s great being able to document that.

How does your personal style find its way into your photos?

I totally love capturing my subjects in an ‘in the moment’ or in a natural setting. Creating composition or frame that tells a story based on the background, midground and foreground is super awesome and definitely my style.


Santana interviews Summer

Oakland artist

When was the first time we met?

I slid through your DMs and asked you to photograph a shoot that I was the creative director for. At first, I was a bit nervous working with you because it was so easy. Our communication was very smooth and we did not need to say much to each other during the shoot; it’s like you knew exactly what I wanted.

Oakland artist

What did you want to create while utilizing the Open Studio?

I honestly wanted to dance around with my camera and shoot you. I usually shoot you on the streets of our neighborhood so it was exciting to shoot my new muse in a controlled environment. I also wanted to practice being comfortable in front of the camera. As a filmmaker, I am two very different people behind and in front of the camera and you always make me feel beautiful when you shoot me. I think I needed that affirmation this week.

Oakland artist

What is your connection with film?

I started shooting in college at Cal. I realized that in school there was no space for other voices and bodies like mine. Therefore, I decided that I want to create my own narratives and hire folks that I choose to carry out my visions.

Oakland artist

What were you hoping to capture/record while we were shooting?

Well, my style is punk professional. Anyone who knows me knows that I will have everything planned out in pre-production but when I arrive to set I follow the day and the mood of the folks I shoot. No plan. Just true documentation of the moments I spent in that creative space. I’m a messy bitch with a professional camera.

Oakland artist

You don’t let many people take photos of you, so what made you comfortable with allowing me to capture your beauty?

The beauty that I see in myself you reflect in your photos. You don’t show me someone I don’t recognize. When you send me the developments you affirm the image of myself that I saw that day. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

Oakland artistOakland artist


Santana Bellas @santanabellas

Summer Mason @verano.mason


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