SHOTS No. 150 : Winter 2021: RITES OF PASSAGE
FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER: Diego Echevers Torrez [link]
FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER: Christine Fitzgerald [link]
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Michelle Rogers Pritzl [link]
Early SHOTS Mail-In Subscription Envelope, 1986.
Over time i came to know many other photojournalists in Kentucky and beyond and started setting my professional sights on the prestigious Magnum Photos, befriending the likes of Alex Webb, Susan Meiselas and Eugene Richards. Sylvia Plachy in New York and Robert Frank in Nova Scotia became letter writing friends.
I felt blessed, in that my position as Chief Photographer, i was able to fully indulge all my crazy ideas and publish many unusual photo essays. My friends at the larger newspapers had no such freedoms. I heard all about their frustrations when shooting next to them at sporting events in Lexington and Louisville. I also learned that many of them had personal photo projects that lasted months and even years. These projects kept them sane while dealing with the few and sometimes boring assignments they were being sent out on.
It was then that i came upon the idea, seconded by all the photographers i knew, to create a small magazine, in order to publish these special projects. I decided to forgo fancy layouts and used an old typewriter for photo captions and any text that i needed. My friends submitted their wonderful photos accompanied by hand-written letters explaining their work and beliefs in the medium. Instead of retyping what they had submitted, i photocopied the letters and glued them to the master copy. This home-made, pasted together style was what set SHOTS apart from other photo publications. People seemed to like the “unpolished” look. I continued with that look for my entire tenure of almost 50 issues.
To this day i am amazed when i see Shots in the photography section at a book store. Amazed that it is still going after 32 [now 34!] years and that not only have several editors taken over and done fantastic jobs running it, but that there is still a willing audience who support it. Viva La Shots!" ■
FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER: Diego Echevers Torrez
Interview by Elizabeth Flinsch
DIEGO ECHEVERS TORREZ: Cocani was born as a pretext to keep stories of one of the most important economic sectors of mining developed within the city of Oruro during the 20th century. The stories related to coca and its economy have been part of my family history, since I can remember, so I always tried to get closer to that world to discover a little more about my roots. Coca, its aromas and mines are part of an important set of imagery in my childhood, and particularly in my present, especially because they are also part of the Oruro Carnival festival (Declared a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity by Unesco in 2001), where the creative genius of the Andean world that inspires my life is manifested. The morenada, its characters, and fundamentally it's actors have always been the cause of a lot of secrecy, but with the passing of generations, the intensity of their presence has gradually diminished, so they have become a heritage at risk, not only for his union, but also for the place of memory to which I belong, perhaps that is why I feel that it is an important chapter in my search, and therefore also a reason for a photographic approach. I am not a cocani, and neither do I pretend to be, but I believe that an important part of my country, to which I strongly adhere, has a thread of blood connected to these stories in the depths of its life, so it is no less alien the need to protect his memory, because that is how we also protect ours.
What drew you to photography? How did you decide to shift from architecture and anthropology to photography?
Photography has allowed me to be free, always. From that first time I had to hold a camera to do a university job, I felt that the viewer allowed me to approach the world from my own conditions. More than twenty years have passed and now I feel that beyond having greatly encouraged my professional training in architecture and anthropology as a tool, photography has become my way of feeling and understanding life, from freedom.
In an interview with the Albumen Gallery, you said that "Photography is a poetic interpretation of life." How does this guide and influence the types of images you create?
Photography makes me optimistic, through it the world and life are different. Navigating in the viewfinder of a camera the possibilities of approaching the universe are endless. There, in the very immensity of what you observe, photography forces you to discover yourself and find yourself constantly, even to surprise yourself many times, because it reveals things that you yourself did not know you were wearing, so in that constant exercise of catharsis becomes possible to find the poetry of life.
What impact do you want your photographs to make on the viewer (if they are not true projections of reality)?
I want my photography to inspire you to see and feel the world from a more human possibility, where poetry and empathy build a bridge that brings us a little closer to what surrounds us.
What do you think about when you are making portraits? Do you know what you are looking for before you begin a shoot?
When we do portraits, we talk a lot and shoot little. A portrait is always an act of consent and complicity between the photographer and the person who is photographed, and from there it is impossible to think of a photographic piece that does not aim to show something that emerges from the conversation. There is almost always an implicit search in the portrait, something that allows the person to be distinguished from the other millions of people, without necessarily saying that there are no chances for chance or fortune.
What is the most profound lesson you have learned from being a photographer?
Photography has taught me that life and the world are a complex act in which too many factors converge, so that almost always nothing is what it seems, and that if you really want to experience what surrounds you, the attitude to discover the world is approaching through a camera.
Who or what has most influenced your photography? Who inspires you?
My photography is the result of intense and unforgettable afternoons of old images in the patio of my house, since I can remember. I love the work of old photographers, not necessarily known or established, particularly the work of those who understood that a good portrait should be like a painting where all the elements were controlled and consigned to keep the gesture of the character. I grew up without many influences, because I did not have access to sources that could enlighten me, however much of the work was done in a very intuitive way, and little by little it was gestating until I found the work of teachers such as Edward Curtis, Karl Blosfeldt, Irving Penn, Graciela Iturbide or Sebastiao Salgado. From there, I feel that a lot has changed and since then I became more reflective and critical of what I do. In my country I cannot fail to mention two great exponents who surprise me more every day: Carlos Portillo (unknown until now, and for whom we are working on the recovery of his work from the first half of the 20th century in the mines of Bolivia ), and Julio Cordero. About who inspires me, I think that more than one person, those who inspire me a lot are old school photographers, who with little had to do a lot. ■
FEATURED PHOTOGRAPHER: Christine Fitzgerald
All Images © Christine Fitzgerald
ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Michelle Rogers Pritzl
Image © Michelle Rogers Pritzl
—Douglas Beasley, Publisher