Rfotofolio is pleased to share the work of photographer, Joel Salcido.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
I grew up with one foot in Mexico and the other in the United States. I’ve always juggled two languages, two cultures and two visions of the world.
I became a bit more worldly after working ten years as a photo journalist, winning awards along the way as I traveled to mostly Latin American and European countries. After several trips to Spain I decided to move there in 1999 and launch my commitment to fine art photography. After more than thirty years I still have a love affair with photography, my mistress of sorts.
How did you get started photography?
I first discovered the mystery of photography while playing at my grandmother’s house in Mexico. We were playing hide-and-seek and I hid inside a box that went dark with the exception of this reversed image that looked like a perfect replica of the outside world. That mental imprint left me mesmerized and years later I started ordering $2.00 cameras from the back of comic books. Eventually I borrowed a real 35 mm camera in high school and I became a staff photographer at my high school newspaper and yearbook. Soon after another high school friend took me to his basement darkroom to teach me black and white printing. When I saw that first image mystically and magically permeate onto paper it was as if I had witnessed the miracle of a lifetime.
Which photographers and other artists work do you admire?
On the painting side, Picasso’s affinity for the brave bull of Spain has always seduced me. I love to study Rembrandt’s lighting. I wish I could photograph like Andrew Wyeth painted. Photographers, there are plenty, but my first and foremost influence were Ansel Adams and Eugene Smith. I’ve spent most of my career trying to merge those two into my work. I love Dan Winters, Nadav Kander and the phenomenal work of Simen Johan. Please don’t get me wrong, there are plenty more heroes! Sebasiåo Salgado, Albert Watson . . . Mark Tucker.
And what about their work inspires you?
Imagination, technical creativity, insight, profound visual wisdom . . . perfection!
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you overtime?
Moonrise Over Hernandez.
If no one saw your work, would you still create it?
Absolutely . . . photography is my religion, sometimes I move with blind faith, I have a deep and urgent desire to create.
Please tell us about your process and what the perfect day of photography is for you.
The process is always evolving . . . I can’t stay still in the comforts of one place, either physically or figuratively. I’ve gone from spending serious hours in the wet darkroom to serious hours in front of the computer in my desperate attempt to translate onto paper what the brain is visualizing . . . . The perfect day of photography is the magical moment when light, subject and composition intersect in time.
What challenges do you face as a photographer?
The proliferation of digital imagery is a great challenge these days given that photography is at the risk of becoming homogenized. However, I remain faithful that there will always be a genius out there that can introduce new visions of the world . . . and there will be. Just like a dormant seed trapped between two stones, creativity is constantly looking to germinate.
How do you over come a creative block?
I run over to a museum or revisit my visual heroes.
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
Interesting question because as a former photojournalist I was always capturing the worst and best of humanity. Eventually the worst of humanity took it’s toll on, not only my soul, but my psyche. I then made a commitment to attempt to point the camera at those things that glorified the good still left in all of us.
What do you hope the viewer takes from your images?
My constant personal goal as a photographer is to accomplish the nearly impossible task of creating images that transcend time. . . I mostly fail, but sometimes I succeed. That is the driving force behind my photography. For me, photography works at three levels: the literal, the aesthetic and the spiritual. If a single image can carry the weight of those three elements, you should have a photograph that likely can withstand the test of time and therefore become transcendent. That simple . . . .
Please tell us about your series “Aliento A Tequila”.
My series on Tequila was a result of a direct invitation from the Master Distiller of Tequila Don Julio. I was fortunate to share a table with him about two years ago and after showing Don Enrique my bull images from my Spain series, he invited me to photograph the bulls at his friend’s ranch in Mexico. I accepted the offer but then realized that the world of tequila was still a mystery to me, so instead I showed up at his doorstep in Atotonilco, Mexico and began following the path of tequila. I would like to believe that this series is likely the most comprehensive body of work on tequila to date. It captures not only the process of making tequila from a photojournalistic perspective but also attempts to reveal the soul of the tequila landscape through pictorial imagery and through several duotones that are in the fine art mindset given those were taken with a Hasselblad camera loaded with a 12-exposure roll of film. The series has done well and was published in the December issue of Texas Monthly and now this traveling exhibit that is partially sponsored by Tequila Don Julio. Needless to say, I feel incredibly lucky . . . .
What is on the horizon for you?
Work, work and more work . . . . There is no retirement in the arts or in my lifetime!
Lately I’ve been fortunate to find myself contributing work to Texas Monthly and the June issue should have a nice surprise for it’s readers . . . that’s about all can say for now.
Also, my next series, one which I already started but long overdue for a revisit, is on the aesthetics of death. A true challenge!
Where can we see your work?
“The Aliento A Tequila” is a traveling exhibit now showing at the Wells Fargo Plaza in Houston through the month of May, then on to Austin in September at the Mexican American Cultural Center and will finish the year in San Antonio, at the Institute of Mexican Culture.
My work is now in the following collections and institutions: The Austonian, The Wittliff Southwestern and Mexican Photography Collection at Texas State University-San Marcos, The El Paso Museum of Art, the Harry Ransom Humanities Center at UT Austin and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The latest acquisitions have been made by the Federal Reserve Bank in El Paso, Texas, UT San Antonio and the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, China.
Thank you Joel for sharing your work and words. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future.
To learn more about Joel Salcido please visit his site. Joel Salcido Photography
To learn more about Ansel Adams please visit Center for Creative Photography.