Latin American Fotografia: Coco Martin

By David Schonauer   Monday January 5, 2015

As the photographic world plunged headlong into the digital era, Coco Martin wanted to step back and contemplate his art. An architect, educator and self-described “experimental self-taught photographer,” Martin, who was born and raised in Peru and now divides his time between Lima and New York City, decided to set his camera aside and create a series of portraits made with a flatbed scanner. “By using a scanner on the skin's model—with no external lighting or lens or aperture to control—I ended up discovering this ‘magic kingdom of a candle light,’” he says.

The result was what Martin calls his “Opus Incarnate Series of Scannographies.” Created over a period of five years, the work has gone on to receive wide notice after being shown at the Lima Photo Art Fair in August 2012. In 2013 the series was featured in Le Journal de la Photographie (now L’Oeil de la Photographie). In June, 2014, one of the images from the series was named a finalist in the 2014 LensCulture Portrait Awards. And another image from the project was selected as a winner in the Latin American Fotografía 3 competition.

“Digital is a daily thing now, but I am still an old fashioned image maker shooting in film on a regular basis,” Martin says. Nonetheless, his experiment made use of digital technology, if only in a primitive way: He created the work by holding his scanner very close to his models, then recomposing the images with digital tools. “After few attempts, I decided to recreate the look of paintings, then recreate my own scenarios and figurative characters,” he says.

This is how he describes the work in his artist’s statement:

I’ve been questioning myself about the concept of what we call photography nowadays and the meaning within the mechanical act of capture itself. I was always willing to bring to my photographic practice a new experimental approach, and through scannographies, the temporary refusal to use a regular photographic camera, [I discovered] a new visual concept to explore.

This is a statement of pause, a way to take some distance of the overwhelming reality and get the chance to think about the main source, the light and the subject, the eager attitude to really get someone's soul almost from the very skin.

The process, he says, “took me back to rediscover the meaning of patience, exactly what some time ago used to be a synonym of photography, instead of the present immediacy.”

Martin expands on his ideas in an interview with Ramon Nuez for Latinos Behind the Lens: “Vision evolves in complicity with time and experience,” he says. “I think my ideas and visions have indeed evolved but have not really changed. I was always interested in absences rather than presences—in creating a plot instead of re-creating a random interpretation of reality. My images become a valid voice when I go beyond my comfort zone.

The accuracy of an image depicting people and places that constitute a human life doesn’t exist. Everything is just an interpretation throughout our own filters. I became more eclectic in my main discourse, but at the same time I learned how to take some distance from my own work. Having said that, I believe I am freer now than the first day I grabbed a camera.”







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