6 December 2018
Producing lo-fi images that capture ephemeral moments of intimacy, Bolivian-born/London-based photographer, Marisol Mendez, shows us the beauty to be found in imperfection and transience.
How did you get into photography?
When I turned eighteen, I moved to Buenos Aires to study Audiovisual Communication. Originally, my intention was to become a screenwriter. I was familiar with words and their grammar but had yet to learn the language of images. In an effort to make my writing process more effective, I decided to take some photography lessons. Soon enough, what started out as a complimentary skill became a calling.
How would you describe the content and aesthetic of your art?
My work is emotionally driven and often deals with the dynamics between immediacy and intimacy. From a fleeting encounter with a stranger on the underground to the intricacies of a love affair, what lies at the core of my photographs is the relationship I establish with the subject. In terms of aesthetics, I don’t subscribe to image hierarchies and instead tend to combine lo-fi procedures with sophisticated photographic techniques. I’m also prone to creating visual analogies by layering different images into whimsical compositions.
Where does your creative inspiration come from?
Inspiration is a matter of paying attention to the world that surrounds you.
Is there a philosophy that underpins your work?
I come from the continent of magic realism and Andean Baroque, where reality is intertwined with myth, and new and old cohabit. With my photography, I’m constantly exploring this liminal space. As a result, the images oscillate between candid and staged, naturalistic and surreal. In the images, the human body is contextualized by elements of nature. Furthermore, portraits are layered with natural landscapes in an attempt to incorporate the full range of human complexity into a pantheistic vision of the world. Sometimes these analogies draw a parallel between nature’s freshness, abundance and will to power; sometimes they expose the contrast between bloom and wither.
What emotion do you want to evoke from your audience through your art?
To me, photographing someone feels like taking part in their vulnerability, like disclosing knowledge about them that they themselves might not possess. A photograph is an invasion of privacy, an incision in reality. When people look at my images, I want them to remember humanity is beautiful because (not in spite) of its transient and imperfect nature. I try to achieve this through my images by embracing what people might view as ‘flaws’. I fix my lens on birth marks, cellulite, messy hair, pimples and scars, the same way I let light leaks, scratchings, or blurs add to the personality of an image.
What themes seem to reoccur in your photography?
The absurd and sublime of the everyday, the plasticity of identity, and the tension between truth and fiction.
How do you explore the themes of gender, sexuality, and identity in your work?
That which cannot be articulated through the phallogocentrism of the institutionalized representation of women, can be communicated through the female pathos. In a world raging to define and defend femininity, my goal is to rescue women from silence and to produce images that transmit the unique experience of the Other.
Does your personal history work its way into your art?
I believe that everything we do, read, consume, look at, study, or experience sieves down to the work we produce. Anaïs Nin famously stated, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” This rings especially true when we think about photography. Although there is a sense in which the camera does indeed capture reality in its veracity, photographs are as much an interpretation of the world as a painting or a poem.
When I first moved to London, I used to live in a residence that houses art and fashion students. The way they dress and carry themselves, their recklessness, self-absorption, creativity, and flamboyance never cease to marvel me. In the beginning, I observed from a distance and was an audience to their performances. Soon, however, the role of a glorified spectator was not enough, so I decided to open a window and let these moments become light-sensitive memories. As my pictures developed into close-ups, my relationship with my peers blossomed into true friendship. I was no longer photographing strangers I was documenting real people.
Doves in the wind
This series developed as a response to the overload of female nudity that clogs media. To be naked is to be oneself. To be nude is to be told how nakedness should look. Throughout history women have been objects to be displayed. Breasts have been censored, enhanced, fetishized, desired, judged. They seem to be there to feed a capricious appetite, not to have one of their own. With these images I was attempting to return power to the real protagonists, to the beating hearts behind the chests, but then something else happened. I no longer felt like a mere spectator. There, in the window, my own reflection began to surface.
What projects have you got coming up?
Early in October I was part of Shutter Hub OPEN – a group exhibition featuring 150 photographers from around the world. Recently I learned that the exhibition is having an encore in Amsterdam! It will run from the 7th December to the 15th January 2019 at the 5&33 Gallery.