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Elena Molina: In Search of the Essence, in Search of the Soul

by Editor  Yvette Depaepe

 “In search of the essence, in search of the soul” is a perfect title to illustrate the work of   Elena Molina. 

She quotes: Photography means to me going deep in my inner self, no matter where I am or who I am with or in front of, it is always like a mirror reflecting our own research. Through others, we recognize ourselves and realize that we all belong to the Whole, to the Unity, since frontiers no longer exit, they just fade away.”


“A smile in the market, Benin”

Today, Elena takes us on a journey through her work revealing the personality behind her images.  Enjoy!

Briefly tell us about yourself, your hobbies and other jobs, dear Elena.
Whenever I hear this question I have to confess no words come to my mind, it just goes blank. However, if you asked me about my real passion, I would not hesitate to say I love travelling. It has been so, since I was very young, and it has just been recently that I could understand what it is behind.
When I travel, I feel free, most constrictions just fade away. A vision of freedom, a feeling of not belonging to anywhere comes over me thus making me feel at home, no matter where I am, no matter who I am with. This, in fact, is how I want to live.
As in the song “You might say I am a dreamer…” and you may be right, but I really love dreams! 

How has your history and life experiences affected your photography?
I would say it has been this passion for travelling which has brought me to photography and also to writing. So many experiences felt in depth, lived in a completely open way and with total honesty, with no taboos!
All of a sudden, “I realized I had to share this feeling”, not because I thought that, what I was living was relevant, but because it was me, feeling Life, feeling myself part of the Universe.


“Benin, this is only the entrance”


“Breastfeeding her child in the market...”


“Scarified woman, Benin”

Describe your overall photographic vision.
It is completely integrated in my life vision, it is part of it. They go together because they are only one.   

Why are you so drawn by Documentary Photography?
When I see others I see myself reflected on them, sometimes a bit sad or helpless, others lost or confused but most of the times happy, feeling a huge gratitude towards the Whole. Maybe this is why you will see in my portraits gazes showing determination, sorrow, joy, complicity, security or uncertainty… I think our lives are like a kaleidoscope where there is a time and a place for everything.


“Man with hat - Benin”


“My best friend, Benin”


“A sad gaze, Benin”


“An intense and evocative gaze, Benin”


“A girl in the Danakil desert”


“Pure glance, Benin”

What is more important to you, the mood,/story behind your images or the technical perfection?
Though I know how important and helpful the technical issue is, I have no doubt that it is the mood or the story behind what is really decisive. I always try to transmit those flashes we share and the experiences lived together, indeed, whatever I feel or comes to my mind in front of an specific situation. At this point, I would very much like to share with you a set of images related to water. I have tried to reflect here what it means, for many people in very many different countries, to get access to it and also how children are involved in this process.
As per the stories behind each picture, they can be read in my profile.

“Taking water home (7), Benin”


“Being too much... Benin”


“Quite a big effort”


“Ethiopia, in the way to collect water...”


“This is all we need: water”

What generally is your relationship to your subject matter beyond being an observer?
It might sound an utopia, but I always try not to be an observer or, at least, not only an observer. When at all possible, I ask for permission to take the photograph and whenever they accept it, and it happens most of the times, I spend quite a while there, before or after shooting. When I leave, I usually have the feeling that a part of me remains there, in the same way that I take with me a part of them.

Do you prepare carefully the locations where you are intending to photograph?
No, never ever. I just wander around but always with open eyes and, most important, with open heart.

What gear do you use (camera, lenses, bag)?
It is only one year ago that I bought the camera I’m using now, it is a compact Sony (RX10 III). Until now I’ve been always travelling -and this is when I take pictures- with my pocket camera.

What software do you use to process your images?
Photoshop together with the Nik collection filters, though I have to admit that also, as far as edition is concerned, I’m just a beginner, my knowledge is very very limited.

What is your most important advice to a beginner in Documentary Photography and how do you get started?
I would say, listen to you, stop and listen to your heart and let you flow. Go wherever you feel you must be and, if at all possible, never in a hurry, the rest will come.

Who are your favorite photographers and more importantly, how has your appreciation of their work affected how you approach your own photography?
I live in Barcelona and whenever I have the opportunity I visit photography exhibitions; for many years now, I have had a fixed appointment when the World Press Photo Exhibition takes place. As per internet it has been only since I registered in 1X that I’m following other photographers, but I cannot avoid mentioning two photographers that I really behold. One is Sebastiao Salgado and the other Vivian Maier, in both cases they deserve my full respect, not only for their work but also for the way they have conducted their lives and their relationship with photography. I know they might have nothing to do with each other but, though for different reasons, the two of them deserve my great admiration.
If their work has affected or not mine, I cannot tell you. I have followed them, they have made me think a lot about the sense of life but, in the end, I think we express what we feel and this comes from very many different sources, indeed from all the experience we have been able to acquire.  

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?
Never to stop, keep on walking, keep on learning.

Describe your favorite photograph taken by you and why it is special to you?
I do not have a favorite photograph but, all I can say is that I’ve chosen my favorite ones for this interview.

Is there anything else you wish to add and what do you think about 1X as a home base for your work?
I would very much like to tell you how I knew about 1X.
It was last November 2017, travelling in Benin when I met  Joxe Inazio Kuesta Garmendia.
We were travelling in a group but, quite frequently, I used to go on my own, a little bit away from the rest. It happened very often that after taking a picture I heard click click click and there he was, Joxe a few meters behind or ahead with his lovely smile. That made us laugh sometimes, we just looked at each other and went on in opposite directions. This is how I realized he was one of those persons you meet for the first time and you feel that no further words are needed. Same feeling I have with many people I meet when travelling, we do not even speak the same language but that it is not important at all.

Joxe told me about 1X, I think he saw some value on my work or, at least, this is what I felt and, from then till now, he has been like a lighthouse for me, always ready to give his best advice, always encouraging, always there. No need to say how much I admire him.

Yvette, you asked me before if I would like to add one of my favorite photos taken by another photographer, if you allow me now, I would very much like to add this one by Joxe.


“Feeding her child – Benin” by Joxe Inazio Kuesta Garmendia

To me it reveals all the love a mother would ever feel and be ready to offer, no obstacles to get a goal, no limitations to achieve whatever we feel it is important. Indeed it encloses the miracle of the life itself.

As per my implication with 1X, when I uploaded my first pictures, I had the impression I was taking a big step forward. I’ve learned a lot looking at others’ photos, I cannot mention any photographer because I am sure I would not mention all those who deserve my respect and admiration so, this would not be fair.
If somebody asks me what I am looking for when shooting, I can only say I want to capture the essence of life, the soul, nothing else matters to me and, through others, I’ve learned you can find this in very many places, not only through a gaze but also in a landscape, in the stars twinkling in a dark night, in a flower, through a vision composed by shapes and lights, everywhere… wherever there is real passion, you feel the poetry, the mystery, that essence of life I mentioned and then, your dreams become a reality.


“Playing at a beninese school”

Very many thanks Yvette for letting me open my heart and share, with you all, what photography means to me.
Elina Molina.

I only discovered this wonderful interview right now. I thank Elena Molina and Yvette. Smart you are both.
I enjoyed this interview as much as I enjoy in your very best wishes for your future plans dear Elina!
Thanks so much Tamara! I really appreciate your kind words and also wish you all the best.
Excellent interview dear Elena. I see you as you are, as I remember you, as a person full of sensitivity and passion for what you do, and that you transmit in your photos and in your books, which I love. A very committed and lovely person. You leave me speechless in your compliments to me: I would say thank you very much but I think that is not enough. How we spend the hours when we talk about photography, travel, 1x, photo editing, etc ... !!! That need we have to seek and learn, to travel and feel, to transmit and share those experiences with others. You know that I appreciate you and your words very much and that I wish you all the best. My very best compliments. Thank you very much to Yvette for her always great work and support. Greetings to you all.
Thank you, dear Joxe! Elena is so lucky to have met you ;-) I really hope to met her too when I travel once more direction Barcelona !!!
Thanks so much Joxe! Me temo que ya te dije todo, no puedo añadir mucho más aparte del deseo de seguir camino juntos. Un abrazo.
Yvette, I'm waiting for you in Barcelona! Please come, really looking forward hosting you.
Maravillosa entrevista Elena, muchas gracias por compartir tu fantástico trabajo con nosotros y que sigamos disfrutandolo por mucho tiempo. Felicidades!!!!
And Congratulations, as always to Yvette for her exquisite work!
Thanks, Martin ;-)
Gracias Martín, muchísimas gracias! ya sabes a qué me refería cuando mencioné "... in the stars twinkling in a dark night, ..." a veces sueño que también yo estuve allí!
I discovered Elena quite recently and the first thing that came to my mind was, how can be possible I did not know about her before? She is the kind of photographer/human being I connect with immediately :) Enhorabuena Elena, un placer leer tus palabras :)
Thanks so much Gloria! Es cierto, nos une algo muy fuerte, muy profundo. Un placer haberte encontrado y seguirte.
Dear Elena: It has been a pleasure to meet you through your photos and the feelings that provoke them. In a way I see myself reflected in them because I feel the same as you when I make a portrait. I congratulate you for the great quality of all of them. A hug.
Greatly appreciate your kind words Asunción. A pleasure for me to discover also your work. Un abrazo.
thanks a lot to Elena and Yvette for this fascinating article. Best regards Wolfgang
So happy you like it! Thanks so much for your kind words Hans.
Thanks for your neverending appreciation, dear Hans-Wolfgang!
txules PRO
gran galería Elena, llena de sensibilidad y arte en mayúsculas; enhorabuena por el reconocimiento
Gracias por tus amables palabras Txules. Te lo agradezco infinito.
Enhorabuena y gracias por compartir con nosotros tus fotografías , tus ilusiones y tus experiencias.
Muchísimas gracias por tus palabras Mario, un placer para mí sentirme parte de esta gran comunidad de fotógrafos. Todo cobra sentido cuando compartimos.
Dear Elena, We have to thank you to have opened your heart and sharing with our community what photography means to you. Congratulations and keep on going, my friend. Cheers, Yvette
Thanks so much Yvette for this great opportunity, for your sweet and kind supportive attitude all the time, for being there caring us transforming our community in a real family. Thank you!
Wow, Elena... my turn to have difficulties to retain my tears. What a huge and heartfelt compliment. Hugs, Yvette