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Artist of the Week — Juan Mendez

May 17, 2010 by · 11 comments

Mariana Velichkova’s interview with photographer Juan Mendez
Translation from Spanish into Bulgarian: Violeta Boncheva
Translation from Bulgarian into English: Ivaylo Moutaftchiev

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Juan Mendez

What attracted you to photography in the first place?

Photography, as a form of expression, gave me the ability to convey feelings, to share them with others. It attracted me since childhood; I was enthusiastic about it and it really lived up to my expectations. To catch a moment in life and to be able to recreate it after time is something I’ve always liked. It’s the same as experiencing those same feelings, which prompted you to take that same photo in the first place.




What do you like and what makes you take pictures?

As a matter of fact, I consider myself a very down-to-earth person, which makes me more comfortable when taking nature shots, rather than pictures of people. I can navigate my own boat, so to speak, as well as my photographs; I can take shots of the sea as well as the people who live near it, for me, especially, this is a pleasure.
Naturally unfeigned photographs, without posing, those that capture and represent the heroes in the storyline, also leave me feeling a sense of fulfillment, when I’m able to achieve this.




What does photography mean to you?

As I already answered, photography is an opportunity to share and relay feelings and emotions that you experience from what you have seen and lived through.




In which direction have you focused your efforts in the art of photography?

I would like to achieve those aims I’ve set my sights on, but as of yet, I’m still unable to, for instance, completely control the photo-studio lights, or to be able to create mono-theme series on important aspects of certain activities in some professions and our nature, which is all so full of surprises; beautiful and mysterious.



What sort of stories do you want to tell with your camera?

I already have a few projects underway. It’s gives me pleasure to work with my camera, I’m capable to imprint and show things that surround us; flora,fauna,people.Through the lens of the camera we have the privilege to achieve a better, a more consolidated and unified world.




It enables people to get to know better, to delve deeper in the deviations that man has allowed while incorrectly exploiting natural resources,turning the consequences onto himself, against nature, which surrounds him and is becoming more and more damaged from his activities.



Which are the photos you can’t forget?

The presence of other authors’ photographs, who have formed me as one are here; they’re something I look up to all of the time. The Spanish Civil War,for example; those are the photographs made by Robert Kappa. They were taken by a man engulfed by the raging battles, who, in many cases, risked his own life, he involves us with a series of images, which are of great meaning.




And from the same author, I’ve mentioned this in other interviews, the photo of Picasso, holding up the sun-parasol for Francis Gilot, one of his wives,titled: ‘Happy Times’, in which the hands of the genius, the artist, have been conquered by her femininity. There are many similar ones, where the talent of the photographer turn his picture into something immortal. It’s true, that many of the photographs I have, in some manner are representative in their meaning and are closely connected with society and life, and we must remember, that such photography changes history.



According to you, what are the most important qualities a photographer should have?

Without a doubt, it’s the ability to observe and why not being persistent about it, when you’re after your set goal.




Where can you find the soul of a photo?

A good question, with a difficult answer. For me, personally, it’s an image which is born in the photographers’ mind, their consciousness, from where it can be taken, transferred and transformed into a photo, composed, coaxed, until it reaches the viewer, until it travels the path and begins living a life of its own, achieving its own meaning. We all know of such examples, which prove, that photos are important because they convey many things, they make us feel touched by them, wherein, I think,there exactly, can we find the soul of the photograph.



What from your personal experience would you share with photographers beginners?

Well, I can say I have an open mind to all intent, which presents itself,that might turn around all concepts via this wondrous world of photography.
In fact, I believe that everyone of us is starting something for the first time over,as if every interaction, all situations are new. Naturally, the only thing that separates a pro from a novice is, perhaps, the much better handling of the equipment and use of techniques. I would like to think that each interaction is a brand new beginning, another challenge in the hope that exactly this next shot will best the prior one.




In conclusion, I would say that encouraging the photographers, who are just starting, is good so they can move forward with their dreams, to not lose heart after making mistakes in the beginning and to be always consistent in acquiring more knowledge and their experiments. Fortunately, nowadays there are plenty of opportunities for that.





Juan Mendez was born in Granada, Spain in 1956.

Photography, along with his other favourite hobby, sailing, has been very rewarding for me over the years. The best moments of his life have been when he has combined those two hobbies.

He could say that he has been a fan of photography for a long time. He started taking pictures in 1979 and, except for the transition from film to digital, he has always used photography to communicate and convey feelings.

His interest in photography was a result of his desire to capture and share the things that he saw and that interested him. So he happily bought his first camera, a Russian Zenit with very basic features. This simple camera opened him up to the wonderful world of photography.
Today, after passing through his hands almost all kinds of cameras, some of which he has a special affection , such as Olympus OM cameras, he takes photos with the Canon EOS system cameras, which he has chosen for their robustness and reliability.

He has a friend who says that every photograph is a moment of happiness … … … .. and he believes her.

I don’t look at the objects that I photograph in a two dimensional way. Instead, I like to try to get in touch with the soul of the object and feel it and let it touch me. I think that photographers love life and are generally happy people. Each photograph has a special raison d’être. Each photograph has its own story or, at least, reminds the photographer of a story or a sensation. It awakens something in the imagination of both the photographer and the viewer. The photographer really lives in that second when the “click” of the camera captures the object and all the ideas and feelings he associates with it. Each of my pictures could very well be the result of something that happened, a story I heard, a trip that I could have taken or the world that continually recreates me….

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