Easter in Spain is a very visual time of the year. For that reason, many of us who like to go out in the hunt for photos, usually have really high expectations on capturing “the photo”. As for me, every year I struggle to find a way of expressing through my images how I feel about this religious event.
This year, easter caught me right in the middle of my street photography research process. And this is what happened:
March 31, 2013 2 Comments
I’ve been convinced!
I should keep going for exactly the same reasons I wanted to give up: it’s hard, very demanding and I have no idea where it is taking me, if anywhere. Sure I am learning, and I guess that’s the whole point of this re-think exercise.
So, here I am, having huge problems deciding what’s a good street photo and what’s not, and learning first hand why streets photographers always say that the most important thing to go into this type of photography is to have a good pair of shoes.
January 28, 2013 Leave a comment
There is something extremely sad about these “fun places”… I must photographically explore this sadness at some point.
January 6, 2013 Leave a comment
So, what’s happening after that first failed attempt?.
Right now I am trying to get access to a place where they hardly ever allow anyone from outside their community. It’s one those places I have always wanted to know more about. It’s difficult, and Christmas time is not helping to get things done, but if I get that permission, I will soon have something interesting to show. If doesn’t work out, my panic alarms will set off loudly. For now, I just keep my fingers crossed!
In the mean time, I am spending 90% of my MA time working on the theory/research project. I know that it is a lot of time for something that is worth much less than the other part but… how am I suppose to write 2500 words on something I know (knew) close to nothing if I don’t give it that much reading time?
I decided early on that Vietnam was not going to be my research topic. It’s hard to spend months researching on something I have no interest in nor any personal conection with. So, instead, as I had just come back from Nicaragua and I was reading Gioconda Belli’s “The Country Under My Skin”, I chose to do something on the Nicaragua’s Revolution.
I have been reading a lot about poetry and revolution and looking at photos such as Susan Meiselas’. I have even had the chance to exchange a few emails with Lou Dematteis, the photographer who in 1986 took the famous photo of downed U.S. soldier Eugene Hasenfus.
I am enjoying the process and it’s getting more and more interested as I read, however, at the same time, it becomes harder and harder to have in mind two different research projects at the same time. That’s why at some point I thought that perhaps I could do both projects on topics related to Nicaragua. For that reason, I have been trying to get in touch with Nicaraguan’s living in Tenerife hoping to find some powerful personal stories.
But so far, the interesting part of this search in that, altough there is a Consulate of Nicaragua in the island, there doesn’t seem to be any Nicaraguans living here. At least, the Consulate people don’t know anyone and, the people keeping track of inmigrants’ associations in Tenerife, have no registry of any association of Nicaraguans. They said that there are associations of most South and Central American countries, but none of Nicaragua. I’ll keep working on that.
Another thing that is happening is that, having been twice to Nicaragua in the last three years, it’s only now that I am getting to understand their history and struggle to become what they are today. And, as a consequence, some of the images I took there, have acquired a completely different meaning to me.
I would have so many questions to ask the people there now. Hector, I am thinking of you and your quietness, so many things I could had asked. But I’ll be back, I am sure.
I will be back!
December 31, 2012 Leave a comment
I am not taking photos.
I keep telling myself that this drought I am going through will probably (hopefully) make me a better photographer with time, but the reality right now is that I am suffering a complete lost of confidence in my ability to compose an interesting story.
I started the term fairly happy with what I had done in the first part of the course, and I had quite a few new ideas to start working on. Time has gone fast and I am now thinking that, of all those ideas, I problably chose the more demending one and I have not been able to cope with my own expectations.
I wanted to do a fair portrait of Tenerife through street photography. I now know that, considering the time and effort that takes to get one interesting image of street action, and having my time limited by a full time job, I would need a life time to put together a couple of dozens photos that I would be happy to call “a portrait”.
So… I guess I should admit that my first attempt at this re-think project has not been very sucessful and I should start re-thinking again.
In an attempt to get out of my confort zone, that is, shooting with my Nikon D3, I borrowed a medium format camera. I absolutely loved to work with it, at least until I got to the developing phase. Apart from being very expensive and messy, the lab I took them to, gave me back 2:1 crops of my square photos. “In case you want to print them in 10x15cm” – they said. At that point my encouragement to try film cameras had reached very low levels.
I have also been shooting with a Fuji X100. I have no more to say than I am slowly learning to love it.
December 27, 2012 3 Comments
If it is the struggle along the way what counts the most, I guess I should be happy to be going through this struggle even before I step on the road. Well, I wouldn’t say I am feeling exactly happy but, I comfort myself (re)thinking that this is how it should be.
I gave myself a month to choose a topic for the Re-think project and I spent that time going around several ideas. When the month came to an end, only one of those ideas seemed to have sticked… document my surroundings; try to explore the love/hate relationship I have with this place I was born in, and also, in a way, try to break with the stereotypes that the tourism industry uses to bring people to the island no matter what.
As soon as the decision was made, I got really scared. How am I gonna do that?
Can I look at this place in a different way to what I am used to? I don’t want to just look at the negative side of tourism. I don’t want to stigmatize the poorer, less touristic, areas of the island… so what do I want to do? I just want to show the island as it is, as I see it, and one thing is for sure: the image sold by the tourism industry is not a documentary vision but a commercial one.
Sounds great but… still the same unanswered question: how am I gonna do that? No idea.
The other day, looking at Jocelyn Bain Hogg photos, the first thought that came to my mind was that his series somehow define very well the british society. So, how does he do it? What’s the magic behind his pictures? What can I learn from them and how can they help me find my way through my own project? Is street, candid photography what comes closer to showing the genes of a society? More question to get answers to…
In terms of trying new ways of doing things, I’ve started to test a medium format camera, a Bronica SQ-A. It’s not easy to use and it’s terribly expensive. And… well, I just got my first set of negatives developed and I have no to way to scan them, so… after a couple of weeks since the actual shooting, I haven’t seen the photos yet. Not something I am used to. On the other side, in a couple of days I should have in my hands a Fuji X100 which I hope would be less showy than my loved, bulky, D3, and so, it will let me do some more of this candid street photography I am thinking of.
I know, these days, a popular way of presenting documentary work, is doing a multimedia piece, and I guess it is something that we all ought be learning to do given the current industry trends. However, I have a sort of problematic relationship with multimedia: I find 99% of them extremely boring, they don’t retain my attention for more than five seconds. And that remaining 1%, are usually done by extremely good filmmakers. So, I am gonna leave the multimedia to those passionate about it and I’ll try to find some other way to show my work. What that’s gonna be, is yet another un-answered question.
November 16, 2012 Leave a comment
We all die and yet death is something that always take us by surprise. We never seem to be ready to deal with someone’s death perhaps because, being sort of a taboo topic, we hardly ever talk about it. But, why is it so? This is a question that keeps going around my mind once and again since as a teenager a waited for months around a hospital room for my father to die.
To analyse and try to understand this life/death issue, I have a project in mind that would take me to spend quite a bit of time in the surroundings of that first encounter with death. The question is: am I ready for it? I guess the honest answer would be… no, no yet. But I do feel that life, from to time, throws me into situations that slowly walk me into the frame of mind required for such, still disturbing, subject matter.
For the last few years, every November 1st, I’ve gone to the cemeteries to take photos of people visiting their relative’s graves, on that day, specially decorated for the catholic celebration of All Saints. It’s always been hard to approach people in this deep sorrow mood. I guess, in this corner of the world, we have assumed that taking photos around death ceremonies is not all that well seen. But this is something that doesn’t happen in every culture as I unexpectedly found out last September in Nicaragua.
One day, while wandering around the streets of the colonial city of Granada, I bumped into a funeral procession. As it looked pretty peculiar to me, I thought it would be interesting to take some pictures. So I decided to follow the procession up to the cemetery. Concerned about how my presence there would be understood, I politely asked it was ok for me to be around with the camera. To my surprise, they said that “not only was ok but an honour”. Still trying to digest this ’honour’ idea which was so different to what I would had expected in my culture, I realised that I was not the only one with a camera in hands. The funeral was being recorded on video and also, people were approaching the coffin, not only to say good bye but to take one last picture of the dead with their mobile phones. That vision shocked me at first and then immediately took me back to my long-standing question: why do us people in this part of the world, have such a harsh relationship with death?
While I keep looking for answers, here are a couple of images of a beautiful farewell to a love one.
I’ve just realised that, perhaps because of my own harsh relationship with death, I have censured my edit. I do have photos of the dead being photographed but, my sense of respect tells me that there is no need to show them. But, why? Somehow, I now feel that my sense of respect would not agree at all with their idea about the meaning of those photos.
November 1, 2012 Leave a comment
I have recently found myself trying hard to use the 50 mm lens to take street portraits (I usually only carry the 50 and 28 mm lenses with me). It turns out that in every single attempt I have have to go back to the distance I feel more comfortable with: the 28 mm lens. I know the theory says that wide angle lenses are not good for portraits but, despite distortions, that seems to be the distance that works for me.
Knowing that, I now keep asking myself about the relationship between the physical distance and the emotional connection I establish with my subjects.
October 7, 2012 Leave a comment
I am sad.
Yesterday, while walking around the market of the City of Granada in Nicaragua, my mind was unconsciously looking for a man I had photographed in that same place two years ago. I never knew his name or anything about him but he has since been very important in my photography.
The portrait I took of him represented the very first time I managed to see something I wanted to photograph, anticipate what was about to happen, notice the combination of strong lights and shadows, and have the camera ready to not miss the moment. All in a fraction of a second and yet, still one of my happiest fractions of a second. I feel proud of that portrait.
Yesterday evening I met Demetrio, a local photographer, and we immediately started to share adventures around photography. As I was showing him my photos of Nicaragua, all people in his studio started to gather around the computer screen saying… “look, it’s Matías!”. “He died a year ago” – they explained to me.
I am sad to know he is gone and, although he never saw that portrait I took of him nor he knew what it meant to me, today I feel the need to thank him and, through him, thank all the people who has ever given me the great little treasure of a fraction of a second.
Thank you Matías. Nice we crossed roads!
September 25, 2012 Leave a comment