Alfredo Sanchez: Photographer of the week

This week we will look deeper into Alfredo Sanchez's splendid and fascinating portraiture work. By carefully composing, lighting, choreographing and manipulating every minute aspect of every composition, he strives to transform the ordinary into perfection and to achieve, if only for brief instants, moments of pure utopia. Thanks to Yvette Depaepe for conducting the interview.

 

 

Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs.
I was born in Mexico City in 1954; I studied law with specialization in International Commerce. I was also very much involved in Agriculture and Private Commerce Businesses for several years. I play tennis and ride horses in my spare time, and of course I spend a lot of time on my favorite pastime photography. As of today, we are working on a project to take photography up to a professional level by establishing a gallery in the near future in Cancun, Mexico.


How has your history and life experiences affected your photography?
I started about 12 years ago in the photography world. I always wanted to learn photography and the time was right since the digital age was starting. I had to study in-depth in two major areas: photography techniques and Photoshop. Because of my age, the only way to do this was to study in the best schools and attend seminars and workshops all around the United States and Europe; like the school of EFTI in Spain and The London School of Photography with a great friend of mine Antonio Leanza. In order to obtain a firm basis for my photography I attended every year for the last 10 years the Photoshop World Congress in Las Vegas and Orlando.

What a pleasure it is to live in these times, in which you can get all the information you need by just asking another photographer or researching it on the Internet. You have to understand that it has been a big change in Mexico and around the world, where the so called masters of photography would never give you an advice or a formula to improve your photography, just because they were sacred secrets. Like everything else in life, it was full of unforgettable experiences and lessons that began forming my photography personality.

Which are your most important experiences that have influenced your art?
There were two experiences in my life that have influenced my art. First, my best friend and great photographer Julio Velasco helped me in establishing my foundation and influenced me to prepare and create photography instead of just taking photos. The second memorable experience was also with a photographer named Luis Caballo, when we went to Puerto Vallarta to a place where we usually spend Christmas and New Years; it had a great impact on myself looking at those beautiful places but now viewing all this through my lens.

At the end of the session with Luis Caballo, and after taking all day long street photography, we ended up going to a beautiful beach in Puerto Vallarta and I was witness of one of the best sunsets in my life. Then I realized that I had been there for many years and never stopped to admire such a beautiful moment.

Everyday you have experiences, which form your own vision in photography; those small experiences build you up to be the photographer that I am today. There was a famous Latin American writer Mr. Eduardo Galeano, who in one occasion was asked in a conference... “What is utopia?” and the answer was the best I have ever heard “ Utopia is like the horizon... any time that you want to reach it, it goes farther away and you will never get there.” So perfect art is not reachable, but the path to perfection is the one that we should enjoy.

Describe your overall photographic vision.
Sometimes I feel like the world has lost the capacity for admiration, to experience the incredible, to revel in astonishment.  Life is filled with grace, motion, color, texture and beauty.  If we only pause to look, we can see and experience these qualities everywhere.  This is what I attempt to accomplish with my photographs, to call attention to the wonders of the world, to share the extraordinary richness of existence with others, to capture the magnificence of expression and gesture, and highlight what is so often missed in ordinary observation. That is the purpose of my work. By carefully composing, lighting, choreographing and manipulating every minute aspect of every composition, I strive to transform the ordinary into perfection and to achieve, if only for brief instants, moments of pure utopia.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Why are you so drawn by Portrait Photography?
Portrait Photography came late in my career, basically because it took me a lot of time and effort to learn all the techniques from the old Masters. I am drawn by Portrait Photography because of the interaction that I have with the persons and I am a firm believer that good portraits are about making people look great. In my own process of thought, I am not trying to please or impress my family, my friends or the judges in any competition. My first step in considering a portrait is to be pleased myself of the work that I have done. There is a quote of Michael Orton, “Creativity is a personal and individual journey that is often appreciated and savored by the creator alone”; do not expect everybody to understand your photographs, be creative and express yourself for your own sake, there is no greater validation for your photographs.

What is more important to you, the mood/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
For me both concepts are very important. To get a good portrait, you need those two elements combined in your photography at the same level of importance.

I try to explore both concepts to the maximum, with the mood/story I prepare the scene and the model, what is the story behind my idea and the expressions that I need from my model. On the other hand, the technical aspect is also very carefully elaborated. I measure every light and try to control every aspect of the scenario.

What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
My photography sessions are scheduled to start at 12 noon and usually finish at 8 pm. There is usually an hour and a half when the make up artist is working with the model. I advice to what kind of make up I need for that specific session. At the same time I start talking with the model explaining to her what we are trying to achieve and what I expect from her to build up our relationship. Because of my influence of the old masters in photography, it usually takes a long time to establish the poses or the mood that I want to capture.

What gear do you use? 

-       CAMERA: Nikon D-810, Nikon D-3, Sony A7RII.

-       LENSES: Nikon 12-24 mm f 2.8, Nikon 28-70 mm f 2.8, Nikon 70-200 mm f 2.8, Nikon 80-400 mm f 3.5- 5.6, Nikon MACRO 60mm f 2.8, Nikon MACRO 100 mm f 2.8, Sony 16-35 mm f 4, Sony 90 macro f 2.8, Sony 70- 200 mm f 4, Sony 24-70 mm f 4, Sony MACRO 90 mm f 2.8, Sony Lens Baby Velvet 56 mm f 1.4

-       BAG: Lowe pro in different styles

What software do you use to process your images?
Lightroom, Photoshop CC 2015, Nik Software, Alien Exposure X, On One, Portrait Imagenomic, Topaz Labs. I also use Florabella Actions, Julia Kuzmenko Actions, Lindsay Adler Actions, Retouching Panel and many others.

Can you tell us something more about your work flow?
Basically I start with Lightroom just establishing the basis and getting ready to send to Photoshop. When post processing portraits in Photoshop I start working on cleaning all the imperfections of the skin in a frequency separation to later work with micro dodge and burning on which I spend most of my time (at least 2 hours) and then I go to the above mentioned programs just to give an artistic touch. I always remember that the famous writer Jose Luis Borges once said that you never finish a novel you just abandon it. You can make analogy of this with photography and I feel that is exactly the same.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

What is your most important advice to a beginner in Portrait Photography and how do you get started?
It is very clear to me and from my experience that it is a combination of many important elements: 

Get involved in the technical aspect of photography to the point that you manage every part with fluency.

Nowadays you have to be very good at Photoshop. In my experience, I would hire a person at the beginning to give me 2 hours of personal instruction every day. Start getting memberships in 1x.com, Kelbyone, The photographer Academy, Lynda.com, and Creative Live to name some of the best instruction sites.

Having the technical part resolved, now you have to put in practice all your knowledge and the only way to do that is to practice, practice, and practice. At the beginning I used to ask everybody to let me photograph them, my family, my friends, the friends of my family, even the people that used to work for me. I tried to practice with them a lot.

When you have control of all these elements you have to interact with your model in order to get the expression that you want. After you have managed to excel in all the points, you have to get out of your comfort zone without fear to improvise and break the paradigms that everybody has in their own mind. At that point the creative part of you will start flourishing.

Who are your favorite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography? 
My favorite classic photographers are: Ernst Haas, Dean Collins, Monte Zucker, Don Blair, and Ken Cook. And my favorite modern photographers are: Joe McNally, Carl Taylor, Cliff Mautner, David Ziser, Dave Black, Frank Doorhof, James Schmelzer, Jay Maisel.

They show classic poses and control the lights and all the elements in photography carefully. Also I was very much impressed by the creativity that they taught me in every book, seminar, and workshop that I have attended.

Is there any specific photo taken by another photographer that has inspired you a big deal and why?
There is a photo of Ernst Haas in a rodeo with a cowboy on a horse in motion, it really inspired me on how he could control the motion to create something unique.  Consider that this photo was taken 50 years ago. You can find it here.

Are there any specific directions that you would like to take your photography in the future or any specific goals that you wish to achieve?
As of today, I did not have any economic goals in photography. It was a very serious hobby for me, but nowadays I have changed my mind and intend to commercialize my photography through expositions, art fairs, printing my own work and a personal art gallery; while continuing with my education and practicing photography at the fullest. I have programmed several expositions in 2016; to name a few: Artexpo New York, Galeria Nahualli in Merida and Houston Fine Art Fair. Also we are in the middle of negotiations with several galleries in Mexico, Central America and South America.

Describe your favorite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you? 
My favorite photography taken by me is a picture named: “Flowing” that won 2nd place in the International Photography Awards (IPA). It is a very complicated photo and the rate of success in a session is very low, the technical part of it is a combination of continuous lights (usually 4) and one flash in an exposure of 2 to 3 seconds in a closed studio were everything is in motion, the lights, the camera and the model.

 
  

Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
To me 1X is being a standard of excellence in the world of photography. No doubt in my mind that this is the best online gallery. I am very happy to belong to this fine photographic community. It is extremely important for us as photographers who belong to 1x.com to recognize the outstanding work and guidance that this website provides us with. As well as the high standards of fine photography they set for all of us. You can find more of my work here.

I want to express my deepest appreciation to my wife Lucia, my daughter Liliana and my son Alfredo for all the comprehension and help in order to answer this interview. I also want to give a very special thanks to my very good friend Yvette Depaepe for doing this interview with me.

  

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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