ALEJANDRO CARTAGENA, 33, MONTERREY

How did you develop your series Between Borders and if you were to remember one anecdote that happened to you while shooting the series, what would it be?

It came about from a commission I was assigned to do last year on some particular communities around the US/Mexico border. When thinking on what to do or how to approach the people from these communities it seemed to me appropriate to be as open minded as possible to what I was going to do and find. I was at that moment questioning the possibilities of creating work from a more traditional documentary point of view; especially the portrait. I had been doing so much research and work on landscapes that I felt kind of biased on whether I could actually do something meaningful, but when I arrived at the community I understood it was going to be a very personal and not so much of theoretically driven project. Walking around like a stranger and encountering these people made me vulnerable in a good way; it let me be much more flexible in the way I was portraying them and there environs. Eventually the project has become a way to look at how communities become entrapped by social and political circumstances, and how they end up having to cope with that and how in a way, this resonates with my own situation as a citizen of Mexico, living within the drug war situation reinforced by a psychological paranoia with which we have to deal today. One interesting anecdote was seeing some kids between some bushes and going up to them to ask what they where doing. They where hunting for codornises, a bird that hides between the bushes. Their dog would scare them out and they would kill them with a slingshot. They would then cut the head off and give it to their dog as a reward. They had a few headless birds with them.


You were named one of PDN’s 2010 30 emerging photographers. What impact did this have on your career?

In a way it was mostly a personal reward in that I felt I was getting recognized for my work and that while living outside of mainstream photo circuits I could still be entitled to produce strong projects. Careerwise it opened up some opportunities for shows and I got a lot of people looking at my work.


Can you describe the usual process you go through when asking people to pose?

Once I see something I like in a person I usually go up to them and say hi and try to make some kind of conversation. I tell them what I am doing and that I am interested in maybe doing a portrait of them as part of the project. Usually they say yes. If they say no I insist a little by explaining more about what I am doing with the project and if they still say no I let them go. When it comes to doing the portrait I look for where the light is and work with that and the space to make it work with the subject. I don’t work directly with the subject too much, I usually let them do their thing and I move around that. 


If you could do any project anywhere on Earth, what and where would it be?

Maybe in Dominican Republic. I’d like to go back and do something that deals with its landscape. But what exactly, I dont know.

www.alejandrocartagena.com

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