Interview about The Visitor Series
June 2016

Photography is, basically, an illusion, a concept. For me is also a source of happiness

AN: Please introduce yourself. Where are you from?
CM: I am Coco Martin and I was born and raised in Lima, Peru. I studied architecture and later worked in that field briefly then slowly moved into arts and photography. I taught photography for a decade in a private school of arts - I have had my own photo studio until 2003. I now live in New York area and I feel home here.

AN: How did you become interested in photography?
My godfather, Jaime, was a professional photographer; he photographed people, landscapes and Peruvian traditions. I remember him projecting his Kodachrome slides once every other month during my childhood. I guess that was a great starting point for a valuable visual learning. Once I graduated I took a few photo workshops and spent hundreds of hours in the darkroom. I consider myself a self-taught photographer whose beliefs on the power of reflecting about concepts and ideas are a key in the process to photograph beyond the tangible. Photography is, basically, an illusion, a concept. For me is also my source of happiness.

AN: Please tell us about your series “The Visitor” and what inspired you to create it.
I like long-term projects because they challenge my lack of patience and force me to wait for results and observe slowly my own creative process. I've always been fascinated and intrigued by those moments of awareness when I visit other people's homes. It makes me realize how little we get to know from others, even close friends or family. I decided to do my visits as recurrent habit. I see things around me, I read signs, and I try to be, and not to be present while their stories through moments of intimacy appear. I tend to visually ignore everything but a window and my subject.

They sometimes are trying to hide their embarrassment and always show their 'best angle'. Of course is the idealism we all have in mind, but I am not looking for that. I am there just looking for an honest portrait.

This series is about the nothingness of contemplation. Most of the time I love to work right next to the border between light and shadows and be free to break the rules and the technical awareness. I go where I can barely see, to a place I like to call my kingdom of candlelight. I feel that is all I need. This may be my own filter and makes me reinterpret these lovely ladies next to a window. I am not even trying to tell a specific story, I leave that to the viewer's imagination. I guess, I invite to discover details and to scrutinize the image.

"A portrait always leads to a silent moment, to an idealistic idea of the other"

AN: What were some of the challenges you faced while creating this series?
I see portraiture as a difficult but genre, the more I shoot the more I discover. It's a work of introspection, a silent moment begging for some light. I try not to control some technical challenges, as I believe that the ability to set up and create a moment of pure observation is the goal. Being able to feel and register the light touching the skin is my main motivation. A portrait is for me the one we can imprint in our memory and skin, not only on a black and white film.

AN: What or who are your influences?
Classic painters and contemporary photographers along with eclectic music would be my influences. From Vermeer, Leighton, Hopper, Caravaggio and the nudes of Sieffert. I always like to dig into the artwork of Bettina Rheims, Araki, Goldin, Doisneau or Sieff. I am also interested in following younger peers in my country like Leslie Searles and Musuk Nolte. I am big fan of attending photo art fairs and looking for alternative magazines. There is so much to see outside from the mainstream. I should mention some readings that helped me to better understand art and photography through authors like Camille Paglia, Joan Fontcuberta, Sontag or some honest selections from curator Julie Grahame. I was the founder and director of the first photo blog for peruvian photographers more than 15 years ago, so I always keep my eyes open.

AN: Do you have any upcoming projects or shows?
Yes. It's time for me to publish some hidden work I have. I've been working on that and on two series where I am trying a completely different language. I am looking for gallery representation outside from my country and being able to show my work to audiences that tunes with it. I just had couple group shows in Oregon and Porto, Portugal and I am looking forward for the next "Lima Photo" show, where last year the FoLA Museum from Argentina acquired one of my pieces for its permanent collection.

AN: What is your final say?
I feel I belong to an old fashion branch of photography, I work slowly and I've learned that patience and photography are synonymous with each other. In this regard, I have to say that my Opus Incarnate series where I used scannographies as a language has enriched my vision about photography without doing what we call traditional photography. I don't do what I do looking for success in terms of appreciation since it is a collateral consequence of your photographic approach and might not be entirely in your hands. I do what I do because makes me feel alive.

The Visitos Series