Noé Montes was born in Modesto, CA in 1973. He grew up in a family of migrant farm workers that traveled up and down California’s Central Valley following harvests. After high school he worked briefly in the field of Electronics before finding the medium of photography, “I found that photography is the best way for me to understand the world and to express my ideas about it”. Around the same time, he began working with community organizations in order share what he was learning with the goal of helping people.
Over the last 25 years, Noé has developed a socially engaged practice in which he creates documentary work around a specific social issue or geographic location. He then uses that work as a tool for community and civic engagement through programming with local partners. He also works to integrate the stories of the communities he documents into the American historical narrative.
Inside the frame, Noé uses traditional elements of photography in order to challenge our reading of images and our understanding of their function in our culture. Through careful consideration and use of light, color, composition and photo historical reference, he works to create a dissonance between our recognition of subject matter and our aesthetic appreciation of the image in a way that opens up space for dialogue.
His list of commissions includes work for The Annenberg Foundation, The California Community Foundation, The University of Southern California, The Palm Springs Art Museum and The Getty Foundation. In 2015 he received a fellowship from the Alicia Patterson Foundation to carry out a project about farm workers in the Coachella valley. He is a fellow at the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities and often lectures at colleges and universities about his practice. Noe has exhibited work in galleries and museums nationally, he lives in Los Angeles with his family and works throughout the state of California.