Martin Zalba: When Music & Photography merge into perfect harmony
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A couple of years ago, we published an interview with Spanish artist and 1x member Martin Zalba.
An artist from head to toe, a gentleman from head to toe. That's how we would dare to define Martín Zalba after having delved into his photography and music work, and after getting know him a bit better through the different conversations that have led to this interview. Martín is a musician and composer, apart from photographer. As a photographer, he is curious, restless and brave, capable of putting into practice genres as different as the ones you’ll see in the photographs illustrating this interview. This hasn’t turned out to be an ordinary, mainstream interview. We deviated from the path of the evident, the expected, to discover other routes which have made his photography and music what they are today. His personality, creativity, vision, inquisitiveness, experiences… those details that shape a person’s character and end up inevitably captured in his art, are what we seek to discover with the intention of better understanding why every aspect of his work is the way it is and not any different. Beyond technique, composition, subjects or framing, it is the build-up of everything lived what makes each one do things one way or the other in this art form. Because photography is not only the image you observe, but also everything in life prior to pressing the shutter.
“I try to be creative, to present in a personal way my intimate self who wants to communicate” ~Martin Zalba~
“Creativity needs to be fed and everything counts, any art form”
“Infrared is different from everything else, I’m really interested in it”
My music could be framed as impressionist-modal, not giving up on melody and with enough counterpoint texture. It is non-contemporary music if one considers “contemporary” as vanguard music. I think my music is more attainable, with a language more or less familiar. As with photography, I try to be creative, to present in a personal way my intimate self who wants to communicate.
Now I try to assimilate composing for audio-visual media because, as music supplements video, it doesn’t need to have as much content as when it’s addressed for a concert hall, which so to speak self-sufficient. When it’s for audio-visual media, it relies on images, enhances them. They are two types of music with different approaches. It isn’t easy for me as I’m used to compose “dense” music. My work is compiled in the following link: https://soundcloud.com/martinzalba. There one can listen to recordings of almost everything I’ve produced.
Your musical talent is impressive and your photographic work deserves lots of admiration. You must be a tremendously creative and sensitive person to be able to offer so much in two artistic expression forms that are so different and require so much education and talent, as music and photography are…
Music and Photography are both excellent media to convey emotions and feelings to convey emotions and feelings, they reflect accurately states of mind, have a great story-telling power, are universal languages…
When I compose, I often think in atmospheres I’ve seen in photos, in lights with certain colours and textures, in distances, in different attention levels. It turns out something similar occurs in photography. There are times, when I practise photography, when I’m humming melodies because what I see through my camera’s viewfinder triggers it and, otherwise, when I arrange a video of my photos with my music, or now using the drone, I compose the music depending on what I see in the footage. I believe there is an only secret in all this: very much love, work and perseverance. We composers talk about orchestral colours and textures when we piece a composition together: we think about weight, density of music and trajectory through time. I conceive both disciplines as a travel, through time in the case of music, through space, light and colour in the case of photography, and both share those and other dimensions. They’re great vehicles for emotions, story-telling, universal languages in different physical media.
Furthermore, I think somebody’s inner world behind art becomes visible if one pays especial attention, both in music and photography. How much from oneself is present in somebody’s own work?
In both art forms, music and photography, we talk about composition and in both of them we could say have a similar goal in terms of the final outcome. However, the “raw materials” are very different, music is composed by creating from scratch, while in photography there are already some elements in the scene and it’s composed rearranging them…
Usually photography changes the way we look, we develop a different perception of our environment, we start perceiving the beauty that would have otherwise gone unnoticed… how was that process for you and how do you think it has enriched you at a personal level?
Would you say the sensibility and experience your musician and composer side gives you is capture somehow in your photography?
And the other way around? Do you feel your photographic experience is influencing your music compositions anyhow?
Photography, video, illustration... Leaving aside photo compositions, which are a world apart when we talk about processing technique, in more or less detail, in the photography world, there is a need to set boundaries. Why can’t we do simply as we please and give free way to our creativity and personal point of view, as we think it’s more appropriate and with the tools we want? Does limiting art make sense?
In this moment the name of the photographer (or I’d better say artist) Sol Marrades comes to my mind; Spanish, from Valencia. If you see her works, you’ll observe the fusion she makes of photography and visual arts (painting) using digital retouching, Photoshop I suppose. Besides a great artist with a very developed point of view, in a personal and creative sense, her processing technique is such that I’d like for myself. She, among other cases, is a live example of creative vanguard with an exquisite taste, at least to me. Her images generate surprise, behind them there is a deep knowledge of painting, its diverse techniques, and I mention her as example of free creativity, but there are other different styles that are as good examples as her. Most of her work has a “classic” or “conventional” background but impregnated in great visual advance. She is one of those admirable road models that justify the questions you are asking me in this stage of the interview.
Everywhere there are advances, the digital format of photographs creates the need for digital retouching, cameras every time get more sophisticated, but for the time being they don’t reach the visual richness our eyes have. Then there is no other option than retouching. It’s true documentary photography, for press, quick news, doesn’t allow time for retouching because it must get published immediately. However, in fine art photography it’s quite indispensable. There are portrait specialists in skin or eye retouching, etc, that’s how detailed fine art professional retouching is…
In music, when I compose, I begin with an initial ideal whose details I keep polishing through my work. When I’m orchestrating, I deal with an infinite palette of pitches that I keep modelling, I mix, highlight, hide them, give them weight, lightness. That work around making micro-decisions is time consuming because they are all inter-related, some balance others.
That’s why, a music composition eight minutes long can take a year to finish, apart from maturing the piece, one must leave it rounded, complete and it’s the same in photography but in a smaller degree.
“Working with different types of photography is very rewarding, they are all related”
In your night photos, we can see it isn't only a matter of aesthetics but there is something else, let’s say, “spiritual”, reflexive… Please tell us more about it.
It’s an inner peace, a miniature immensity with the appearance of night landscape… Contemplating the sky and thinking the light from some stars ceased millions of years ago is a reason to reflect on many things. Standing next to any stone not knowing its age and thinking it will remain almost unaltered when one is gone is something to think about… feeling lonely in the dark helps to find oneself. However one must get used to it because we are made for daylight, we belong to daylight and almost always we turn on the night because we have to sleep.
“There is only one secret in all this: very much love, work and perseverance”
Before you talked about infrared photography. It’s an unknown field for most of us, could you give us some tips about technique, filters and processing so we can get a better idea?
To end in beauty, this video - images and music by Martin Zalba.
With thanks to the Spanish Magazine "Fotografo Nocturna" for allowing us to use part of this interview.
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