Martín Molinero (Buenos Aires, 1975). Based in Madrid. Member of VIVO Photography Collective

What was the trigger, or inspiration, that led to your taking up photography?

The trigger was a photography workshop given by my uncle when I was 17 years old. It was 1992, a year after I’d come back to Buenos Aires, having lived two years in a tiny little hamlet in Galicia, Spain. The first year in Galicia was tough for the teen urbanite I was. I missed my friends from Argentina and living in a big city. When I finally adjust myself to the country life and I made new friends in Galicia, my fate was that I had to return to Buenos Aires. Having already lost contact with my old friends there, I became sort of a loner. One changes a lot at that age. That was when I discovered the beauty of my hometown and I developed a fondness for taking long walks and wandering the streets of Buenos Aires. So, when my uncle taught me the fundamentals of photography and helped me to get a battered second-hand Minolta, the camera became a much-needed companion for my ramblings and perambulations. Since then, photography became a very important part of my life.

What do you hope to communicate or describe with your work?

Well, I would like to know it too, though I’m not sure I have that hope. I don’t have an agenda. I just like to walk and observe. I don’t deal with newsworthy events, I don’t intend to describe nor instruct, neither do I consider my photographs art. Perhaps I just hope to “record” some things. You know, I can’t make sense out of whatever I come across at all, but, pretty optimistically, I still believe that I might find a clue about it in a hypothetical future. So I “record” whatever I come across that catch my interest, in order to eventually revisit it. I guess you could consider it a sort of laborious procrastination… What do I hope to record? I mostly take photographs as a sort of informal survey of my surroundings and my inner life. It’s also a way to prompt experiences and remember them. For me, time, transience and memory are a constant source of wonder and perplexity, and the camera’s ability to deceivingly stop time does nothing but enhance that wonder and that perplexity by somehow disturbing the stream of time that keeps rushing past. I’m just still amazed by the strange, unparalleled discontinuity created by photography. Sometimes I like to think that photographs are messages from the past sent to a future self. They go like: “Hey! Take a look at how this was! Look! Do you remember this?!”. I hope these faint vestiges from the past would enrich and somehow increase my experience of the present. You know, there’s this nice, comforting idea in Chris Marker’s La Jetée, the idea that memories (and certainly photographs) could be a sort of loophole in Time, a loophole through which one could transfer, from past to present times, supplies, medicines, energy sources…

Has your relationship with photography changed over time, and if so how?

No doubt it changed a lot. After the first impulse, there was a time, in my early twenties, when I enjoyed much more making prints than taking pictures. My bedroom was my darkroom (or vice versa). I spent many nights making prints, dodging and burning and listening to music. I still miss it. I only shot black and white back then, mostly my friends and some shy, 50 mm street photos. I got a Canon AE-1 and began to shot medium format with a terrible Yashicaflex. I timidly sought to earn some money taking photographs. It didn’t work. I graduated; I moved to Barcelona. When I turned 35, after a decade without taking photographs, my wife gave me a digital camera as a birthday gift. Digital… Terra incognita. Awkward, intangible, ethereal in a bad way, but easier and affordable. So, eight years afterward, here we are. Still going.

Select 5 of your photos and talk about how they came to be and how they reflect your working methods.

All photos selected here were taken last year.

(1) This photo is very significant for me. I took it while moving to Madrid, after having lived for 14 years in Barcelona. Driving through the desert-like region of Los Monegros (Aragón) towards Madrid, I took the sunrise (or sunset?) and the bull as a good omen, despite of both being rather clumsy, naive representations, a circumstance which could possibly challenge, if not entirely impugn, my optimistic expectations.

(2) Besides the obvious symbolic interpretations prompted by this photo, I like the fact that the hundred-and-fifty-year-old cypress tree whose roots damaged the Azrael’s sculpture is somehow “punished” by being brutishly attached at it. In order to fill the tree trunk from the right side, I held the flash with my left hand and crossed the left arm over my right side, the coiled cord crossing my neck, in a rather contortionist, tortured way somehow appropriate to the subject. A couple of days after taking this photo I went back to this cemetery and, while walking through the gravestones, I heard horrifying howls and terrible whines that made my blood run cold. They were pigs. It turned out there’s a big slaughterhouse next to the cemetery. Can you believe it?

(3) This photo is one of those gifts that one can get at the least expected moment. The church is known as “Our Lady of Anguish”, Patroness of Aranjuez, whose image is reflected on the glass behind the man. The Virgin’s image, whose face is bathed in tears for further dramatic effect, was re-made in 1940. The original one was burned during the Spanish Civil War.

(4) I took this one while climbing the stairs of the Granada Cathedral. In a fit of second-youth enthusiasm, these nice ladies were sprawled on the steps watching the cathedral upside down. I was lucky to capture the synchronized standing up. I’ve said before that I like recording things. Well, there were thousands of starlings flying around and noisily calling and singing like mad when I took this photo. The flock gradually gathered in a nearby square called “Plaza de la Trinidad” (Trinity Square). I audio-recorded them, as well as the tinkling of cutlery and murmur of conversations emerging from bars and restaurants that surround the square. The noisy starlings and the chatter of the people seemed to reply and mock each other... Ok, none of this is perceptible in the photograph, but this synchronized old ladies’ photograph is intimately linked in my memory with the starlings’ crazy calls and the people’s chatter (all of which has been recorded and stored in this photograph and in a few audio files for further examination...).

(5) I took this one last month. Well, the tree trunk behind the lady is really annoying and the photo is far from being good, but I like how things worked out with this one. I’m still discovering Madrid, which is quite bigger than Barcelona, and I don’t understand yet its different light conditions over the year. Victor Llorente, a true “madrileño” (Madrilenian) and a very fine photographer from NYCSPC, gave me a tip on this street, which is called “Calle Serrano”. In a sort of mundane, pedestrian “veni, vidi, vici” kind of way, I went there, walked three blocks and took this photo. A couple of days afterward, the red decoration crosses weren’t there anymore.

You can see more of Martin's photos and follow him on Instagram


Who are you ?

If only I knew!
I’m a French art director/graphic designer and an “amateur” analog photographer, based in Paris and the founder/curator/designer of Underdogs, a magazine about contemporary photography that I started publishing in 2014. I love tigers, horses, dogs and animals in general much more than human beings, to be honest.

What was the trigger, or inspiration, that led to your taking up photography?

In high school, I was following a literature class that included drawing as a speciality.

But I quickly realized that I was not super good at drawing. At that time, I hung out with friends who were musicians, and it bothered me that I was doing nothing while they were jamming together. Taking pictures of them playing came to mind. Once I started, I found I enjoyed the medium and the sensuality of the camera itself, beyond the subjects of my pictures. My pictures back then were very bad, though, and I decided to learn photography, so I enrolled in a photo school. After the first year, it was a waste of time; I had to leave school because many things went wrong in my life. I quit photography for years and came back to it in 2011. But I’ve always been fascinated by the fact that a photograph is like a piece of a huge puzzle called «the world», a little moment of something that will never happen again, a moment (even for still life or landscape photography) that you'll never see the same way again.

What do you hope to communicate or describe with your work?

I am certainly a complicated person in real life, but not at all as a photographer. I actually don’t like calling myself a photographer. According to my photo idols and references, I’d be setting the bar too high, and I know I will never reach it. I’d rather say that I have cameras and take pictures. It sums up very well how I approach photography. Talking specifically about my work is difficult; I’d rather let my images reveal themselves. I don’t try to document anything, and I don’t know what I want to communicate either, perhaps just the way I see the world I live in.

I never plan anything far ahead; I just go out, look around, and press the shutter each time something catches my eye, or even when it doesn’t, in the hope of nice surprises. But maybe the main reason is that I take photos because it makes me feel alive and attentive to my surroundings and allows me to build, piece by piece, my own world. It might be the one I would feel more comfortable living in. I once heard in an interview, «When we describe pictures, what’s in them, it doesn’t say very much about why the picture is good or interesting or bad ». I couldn’t agree more.

Has your relationship with photography changed over time, and if so, how?

Yes it has. But I guess that’s the case for all of us. When I started photography, I used analog cameras because digital did not exist, but when I came back to it six years ago, I bought a digital Nikon and was not happy with the color rendering, and the weight and multiple options drove me crazy. At that time, I posted on Instagram and made «virtual friends». I started talking a lot about photography with a guy based in Vienna. He mostly shot analog but also some digital. One day, he told me that he had decided to give up shooting digital to use only film.

Little by little, the thought came to me that it would be interesting for me to do the same. I brought my old analog Nikon out of the closet and shot an expired roll of Kodak film. I was so amazed with what came out that I stuck with it (even though I must now admit that the pictures were not that great). Since then, I have bought different types of cameras, from rangefinders to point-and-shoots. You don’t see and shoot the same way with one or the other, so I find interesting to switch depending the location, the situation or the light. But since I carry my Olympus µ(mju) in my pocket wherever I go, I have numerous pictures from it.
Paris was a place where I used to enjoy wandering around, but it’s no longer attractive to me, so I eagerly await days off work to escape anywhere else.

On another level, curating Underdogs has also changed the way I look at photographs, including my own. The fact that I bury myself in photographers’ streams has opened my mind to the medium. I think some shots I’ve taken wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t seen some of these works online.

To sum it all up, I think I learn something every single day from the people I follow on social media as much as I learn from “the masters.” – I hope they learn a bit from me too (not the masters, of course). And last but not least, I have gained much from the dialogues I’ve had with other photographers, because staying in one position does not help in opening your mind and spirit.

Select some of your photos and talk about how they came to be, as well as how they reflect your working methods.

If I had working method, I’d probably getting better! The only unchanging thing is the number of exposures I take, never more than three of the same subject. You know my method is nothing more than seeing, snapping and moving on.

But let’s go! I picked five that were taken in different ways:
The can of Coke:

I was at work, and was on my way back from the drink vending machine with my can of Coke in hand when I spotted this red leather sofa. I don’t know why, but it naturally came to me that I had to take a picture of both, so I finished the can and threw it on the couch and click-clack. Snapped it twice and left.

The dogs standing next to the stop sign:

When my friend Eric and I reached Douarnenez harbour, we stumbled upon this amazing old fish shop that could have been a photo subject itself, but I thought that making the dogs part of the scene could completely change it. I found it interesting that the red leash was a cool echo to the stop sign. So let’s say it was a last-minute staging.

Red shoe:

While wandering around a retro car show, I saw this foot wearing a red shoe and the cone; I didn’t think, I just took it quite quickly, click clack Contax and bye!

The basket of strawberries:

I’d been walking for hours in Warsaw and was headed back to the hotel when I saw this guy coming towards me. I took my camera out of my bag, but he passed me by walking very fast, so I turned around and pressed the shutter once without really having time to frame properly. It’s not that memorable a picture, but I like the dynamic angle.

The cross:
The last one I’ve chosen is because I’m not used to to working that way.
While driving, my friend Eric and I spotted a small cemetery like the ones you can only see in small villages.

We pulled over to have a look, but it was obvious that the subject would be far better at night. So we came back later with a powerful torch and started playing with it in addition to the flash. I took a couple of pics and kept my fingers crossed until I got the film back from the lab. I was quite happy with that one.

Thanks a lot for the invitation.

View Underdogs Magazine here

View more photos by Isa on Instagram


What was your trigger/inspiration for starting photography?

Accident in cahoots with necessity. I'd jacked in my job at the docks and was off on an American road-trip as a baptism for everything life cared to throw at me. Reality was in fast forward, my Doc Martens under duress. So by the time I reached the West Coast I needed a device (of sorts) to help keep track because my neuronal hard-drive had hit overload. I shot snaps of the XL vistas. I was blown away by the searing poverty. I crossed my fingers, gulped and wandered around Watts, Harlem and the Bronx, thinking, 'This isn't right...' I let it engulf me. I let it simmer up into anger and hate.
Once back in Scotland, my dad handed me a proper camera and told me to take it for a spin. My JFK moment. The blood-spatter pattern time's arrow can't reverse. Then followed the freedom of unemployment. Bus trips. A camera in one hand, a cold pie in the other. My perfect day out. And Hoi Polloi as consecration.

What do you hope to communicate/describe with your photography?

One of two things. Or both simultaneously. Sometimes I just want to lose myself, popping pearls in a carefree stream-of-consciousness. Re-enchanting my world in the hopeful hunt for tiny time-diamonds.
But usually I'm geared up for something more. I started shooting during Thatcher's dystopian skull-fuck, so my instinctive drive was towards pictures of working-class life around me. I even harbored a hair-brained idea of being a swashbuckling war photographer. But these days I wonder whether pictures of extremes (like poverty and war) can easily be dismissed as freak blips in their narrative. In which case, maybe it's more undermining to depict the pain within the commonplace. Subversion in a minor key from inside what should be capitalism's comfort zone. It's an economic model that doesn't meet many of our basic psychological needs, so however brave a face we put on it, inevitably the mask sometimes slips, revealing the stigmata of adaptation. On that understanding, my pictures tend to depict (or suggest) themes like alienation, solitude, identity and social dissonance. My tiny Trojan Horse to their Achilles heel.
Pathetic blows. If, in some phantasmagorical demi-monde, I could morph them into something with Marvel menace, they would ram a heel down on the Beast's throat. Hopefully, my intentions are worth the mileage, even if only as self-validation. Honestly, it's all worthless to me unless I can stand face-to-face with the teenage zealot who set off to discover his America and look him in the eye.
Or maybe it's just reverse alchemy. My troubled inner monologue, twisted inside-out and pixelated. My own private schadenfreude playing on repeat in a cathartic chorus. Eschatological eye-candy as leitmotiv.

In any case, you've got to be about something, don't you? That's why I can't suffer all this burlesque shite that seems to be redefining street photography. It couldn't be more inane. It couldn't be less ambitious. A tear runs down the face of photography every time some clown adds to the pile. It's like turning up at a funeral wearing a Hawaii shirt. Philistine, flat-pack photography. Boiled-in-the-bag snapography for dizzy, miscreant fuckwits. 

Harsh histrionics? Maybe. But it seems such a wasted opportunity. Almost a dereliction of duty in the sense that street photographers were once referred to as 'peace correspondents', whereas now they're increasingly more akin to court jesters. It's not funny, it's laughable. Ok, street photography is a broad church with no rules or obligations. But is it just wishful thinking to imagine a global network of street photography watchdogs? A thorn in their side. Maybe.

Has your relationship to photography changed over time? If so, how?

I think I speak for us both when I say time stood still when our eyes met. We bonded instantly, and, with her on my arm, we turned heads wherever we went. 'Platonic' wasn't in our vocabulary, and the world was our lobster. After the honeymoon years, we moved to Paris, and I foolishly assumed this would work further wonders for our relationship. But, sadly, it wasn't so, and infatuation was replaced by irritation. The toe-nail clippings, the bath soap body know the thing. Then followed a long period in which we were estranged by geography, and the relationship languished. But a few years back, a riot re-ignited our flame and, going by her blushes, I reckon I still have a place in her heart. She can be a frustrating companion, and I often feel like slamming the door on us. Until I remind myself that I probably need her more than she needs me.
What next? Maybe the first kiss will be crowned. More probably, her patience will snap and she'll drive off into the distance. Leaving me like a forlorn Jake LaMotta, scolding my own reflection in a self-referential cascade of mirrors. Ruing what might've been. A contender instead of a bum.

Six pictures and your method

Earlier on, I listed a few of my recurring themes, which maybe gave the impression of a very structured approach when, in fact, beyond commonsense planning, my photo walks are intuitive. I suppose personal themes and style are inspired by various factors - our life experience (including the knocks we took growing up), our basic attitude (our adult reaction to the world) as well as other photographers (our influences), etc. So intuition is nonetheless guided by these primal drives - meaning I do have an 'agenda' and don't sit on the fence. When I head out, I try to keep a lid on it all with a mixture of calm, concentration and stoicism. Aiming for a child-like state of curiosity. Last but not least, a catchy '45 in my head as soothing soundtrack and battle anthem. 
I suppose what's fundamental to a photographer is being situation-sensitive and capable of transcribing that visually. Hearing the song of the street - receptive to it's poetry and pain. Inversely, tone-deaf photography is like watching your dad hit the dance floor after a few too many shandies...

What reels me in to a shot varies - a situation, a person, a background, etc. But in the absence of anything concrete, I seek out atmospheric conditions so I at least have one factor on my side. I don't think in terms of 'good/bad' lighting but concentrate on mood and texture instead. I don't overly fixate on the golden hour. Situation-wise, I'm looking for something pregnant with possibility or already energised. The elements that thrill me in the work of other photographers are usually beauty, social substance, emotional depth, artistic singularity and strong mood, so that's pretty much my own shopping list too.

I'm often drawn towards the use of silhouettes, shadow and reflection as I feel paradoxically they convey a richer impression of 'reality'. They've become part of my photographic lexicon. To me, they suggest elements at play beyond the fragile surface tension of appearances as well as articulating my perception of them. Pluri-dimensional. An off-kilter, spastic echo. Like that line from Lost Highway - 'I like to remember things my own way....not necessarily the way they happened'.

Is there a question we haven't asked that you'd like to answer?

Yeah. Anything that would've allowed me to spin on a sixpence and conclude this interview with a devil-may-care flourish of a reply.

You can see more of my work on my website.