Discipline: Visual Art – photography

Tonita Cervantes

Discipline: Visual Art – photography
Region: Portland, OR
MacDowell fellowships: 2020, 2022

Tonita Cervantes is a social activist and documentary photojournalist. For 20 years she operated Cervantes Nomad Casting in Los Angeles casting for commercials, Public Service Announcements, and music videos. Lists of casting credits include: The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Janet Jackson, and many others, including Green Day's Boulevard of Broken Dreams, which won the MTV Award for Best Video of the Year. Her life in Hollywood, however, did not fulfill her burning desire for social justice. She turned her passion for storytelling to the camera lens. Her first project was for Sightlife.org. She photographed blind people and donor families in India, Nepal, and Ethiopia who were recipients of corneal transplants. Through her images and storytelling, she helped increase cornea donation in those countries. Using her camera, social media live-feeds and video, she captured camp life and frontline direct-actions at Standing Rock from an Indigenous point of view.

Most recently she documented the divisive and explosive violations of human rights against migrants seeking asylum along the U.S.-Mexico border. Knowledge of the historical trauma suffered by Native Americans is absent from the educational system in the U.S. With her photographs, interviews, video short-documentary, and first-hand account of her experience at Standing Rock, she is developing materials for educational purposes to be shared with communities both Native and non-Native.


Eastman (formerly Shop)

Tonita Cervantes worked in the Eastman (formerly Shop) studio.

Thanks to the generous support of MacDowell Fellow and board member Louise Eastman, a century-old farm building has been reinvented as a modern, energy efficient live and workspace for visual artists. Originally built to provide storage when the residency program was expanding, this small barn was simply converted for studio use in the mid-1950s with the…

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