For NYU Shanghai junior Mateo Rengifo Orozco, photography is a perfect way to appreciate the moment. His detailed, evocative photos and experimental films capture the personality and humanity of his subjects. What’s more, his work preserves the present for future reflection and recollection.

A Buddhist monk wearing a red robe and holding a string of beads.
“Monk,” Buddhist store, Shangri-La City, Yunnan

Living in the Moment

Mateo Rengifo Orozco, a Business and Finance major, started college at NYU Shanghai. In fact, he found himself far from his hometown of Bogotá, Colombia, experiencing new things on a daily basis. So he decided to use photography to help document and process the transition. “I wanted to ensure I was capturing the overwhelming feelings I was experiencing,” he says. “Photography helped me calm my nerves and appreciate the excitement of my college experience in the present moment.” As an artist Mateo draws inspiration from what’s happening around him: objects or scenes that catch his eye, things that appeal to his senses, and situations that resonate with him. He aims to evoke his feelings from the past with snapshots of the present.

A statue of Buddha
“Look,” Buddhist temple, Shangri-La City, Yunnan

Revealing the Truth

At NYU, Mateo has access to cities, classes, and resources that have allowed him to take his art even further. He enrolled in Photography I and Moving Images I, both taught by Assistant Arts Professor of Visual Arts Alice Wang. Also, Mateo began to experiment with state-of-the-art creative labs, equipment, software, and techniques. “Professor Wang introduced me to artists and art-making approaches I had never encountered before,” Mateo says. “I believe it’s these kinds of relationships that truly underscore the value of studying at an institution like NYU.”

For Moving Images I, Mateo created a nine-minute experimental film titled I Will Be Back in Five Minutes. He enlisted nine of his friends to sit in front of a camera for five minutes, and he filmed as they became jittery and anxious when they were left alone for 10 minutes instead. He says the resulting clips captured each friend’s true personality. To form the final product, he edited all nine together.

A person in a dress standing in front of a tree.
“Color,” Black Dragon Pool, Yunnan

Preserving the Present

Moving forward, Mateo hopes to keep traveling with his camera by his side so he can continue to capture his story. “While it’s impossible to fully convey the life sensation of any particular period in one’s existence, a snapshot is as close as we can come to sharing it with the world,” Mateo explains. “Photography and filmmaking allow me to capture reality from the perspective through which I prefer to see it. I believe that pictures are return tickets to moments that we would otherwise lose, and by controlling the composition of my shots, I choose how to remember them.”