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JOSE MANUEL CASTAÑEDA CASTILLO



Mexican street photographer Jose Manuel Castañeda Castillo discovered photography on a trip to New York two years ago. Being able to tell a story and transmit how transitory life is through a photograph was revealing for Jose.


In this interview, Jose shares some of his street photography with us and an emotional small series, part of a project that he called 'Ephemeral', which he talks to us about in depth.



Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you become interested in photography?

Nací en la Ciudad de México el 19 de mayo de 1994, viví 15 años en esa ciudad, me mudé y actualmente vivo en Rioverde, San Luis Potosí.

Soy un aficionado por la fotografía callejera en blanco y negro, amante del arte en general. Mi interés por la fotografía surgió de repente y por curiosidad durante unas vacaciones en New York en el 2018, estaba en la Grand Central Terminal y vi un grupo de personas con cámaras, me acerqué por curiosidad y me preguntaron si estaba en el taller, que resultó ser de fotografía callejera, claramente yo no estaba en ese taller pero me invitaron, y participé con solo mi celular... desde ese momento me pareció una experiencia reveladora, ver como cada uno de los fotógrafos tenía una forma tan distinta de apreciar e interpretar lo que pasaba frente a ellos, me gustó tanto, que decidí comprar mi primer cámara.

I was born in Mexico City on May 19, 1994, I lived in that city for 15 years, I moved and currently live in Rioverde, San Luis Potosí.

I am a fan of black and white street photography, a lover of art in general. My interest in photography arose suddenly and out of curiosity during a vacation in New York in 2018, I was in the Grand Central Terminal and I saw a group of people with cameras, I approached out of curiosity and they asked me if I was in the workshop, which turned out to be about street photography. Clearly I was not in that workshop but they invited me, and I participated with just my cell phone...from that moment on it seemed like a revealing experience, seeing how each of the photographers had such a different way of appreciating and interpreting what was happening in front of them. I liked it so much that I decided to buy my first camera.



Tell us more about your series 'Ephemeral'.

En ésta serie "Efímero" es sobre Ignacio Rangel, un enigmático profesor de piano de la región, muy querido, quise plasmar el significado mismo del título de la serie, toda nuestra vida no somos conscientes de lo pasajera y momentánea que es la vida, hasta que se nos está terminado... lo bello y cruel que es el tiempo, puede darte o quitarte todo en un abrir y cerrar de ojos, de la compañía, soledad o vacío que puede ser tu entorno cuando ya no tienes nada, pero también te hace ver a quien le importas en realidad en todo momento.

La serie tuvo que ser improvisada, porque en realidad no seria nada parecida a como resultó, por cuestiones médicas del profesor y la actual pandemia, solo pude estar 10min en su casa.

Me gustaría que el espectador al ver éstas fotografías, sintiera que está presente en esa habitación y pensara que la persona que está en esa cama postrado ya sea féliz o triste, quizá mañana sea él o ella y haga conciencia del tiempo que tienen en realidad.



This series "Ephemeral" is about Ignacio Rangel, an enigmatic piano teacher in the region, very dear, I wanted to capture the very meaning of the title of the series, all our lives we are not aware of how fleeting and momentary life is, until we are done...how beautiful and cruel time is, it can give or take away everything in the blink of an eye, from the company, loneliness or emptiness that can be your environment when you no longer have anything, but also It makes you see who really cares about you at all times.

The series had to be improvised, because in reality it would not be anything similar to how it turned out, due to the professor's medical issues and the current pandemic, I could only be at his house for 10 minutes.

I would like the viewer to see these photographs, feel that they are present in that room and think that the person who is in that bed, prostrate, whether happy or sad, might be them tomorrow, and they may become aware of the time they really have.


Where do you find inspiration? Do you have any favourite artists/photographers? Talk to us about your printing series about your favourite photographers on IGTV.

Suelo ver muchos documentales sobre fotógrafos icónicos de toda época, ver como su trabajo va evolucionando, como interactúan con las personas, los grandes viajes que realizan para conseguir una fotografía, me inspira... pero en definitiva, muchas de las personas que he conocido relativamente hace poco tiempo que ahora son amigos mios, me inspiran todos los días.


Mi lista de fotógrafos favoritos es muy amplia, desde Graciela Iturbide, Vivian Maier, Isabel Muñoz, Manuel Álvarez, Cartier B, Sebastiao Salgado, Gerda Taro etc...


Mi serie en IGTV de hacer impresiones de las fotografías mis fotógrafos favoritos, son amigos míos que además de admirar su trabajo porque es maravilloso, han sido cruciales en mi aprendizaje, lamentablemente por cuestiones de tiempo no puedo hacer tantas como me gustaría, pero aun me quedan más por realizar.


La cuarentena me dio el tiempo para aprender muchas cosas entre ellas, distintos procesos alternativos bastante antiguos para imprimir una fotografía, que dan resultados asombrosos y especiales, porque son piezas únicas y no hay 2 iguales.

I usually watch many documentaries about iconic photographers of all times, see how their work evolves, how they interact with people, the great travels they undertake to get a photograph, it inspires me ... but ultimately, many of the people I've met relatively recently are friends of mine, they inspire me every day.

My list of favourite photographers is very long, from Graciela Iturbide, Vivian Maier, Isabel Muñoz, Manuel Álvarez, Cartier B, Sebastiao Salgado, Gerda Taro etc …

My series on IGTV is to make prints of the photographs of my favorite photographers, they are friends of mine who, in addition to my admiration for their work because it is wonderful, have been crucial for my learning. Unfortunately for time reasons I cannot do as many as I would like, but I still have more to be done.

The quarantine gave me the time to learn many things, among them different quite old alternative processes to printing a photograph, which give amazing and special results, because they are unique pieces and no two are alike.


In general, what do you want to express through your photography? What are some of the elements you always try to include in your photographs?

Hoy en día, todo el mundo se esfuerza por alcanzar la perfección, lo que significa que la imperfección está desapareciendo, especialmente en las redes sociales, lo que hace que sea aún más interesante mostrar la imperfección. Sin esto, terminaríamos con una visión equivocada de nosotros mismos y del mundo, que todos son felices y se sienten bien. Si la gente siente algo, cuando ve mis fotos, y tal vez reflexiona sobre las cosas, entonces vale la pena todo, para mí.

Siempre trato de aislar al sujeto principal de toda la escena, donde su cara no sea visible en totalidad y que los detalles como su ropa o accesorios la destaquen del resto y quede abierta a la interpretación personal de quien vea la fotografía.

No me preocupo de la composición, para mi vale más tener un sujeto interesante antes de cualquier regla de composición.

Today, everyone is striving for perfection, which means that the blemish is disappearing, especially on social media, making it even more interesting to show the blemish. Without this, we would end up with a wrong view of ourselves and the world, that everyone is happy and feels good. If people feel something when they see my photos, and maybe reflect on things, then it is worth everything to me.

I always try to isolate the main subject of the entire scene, where the face is not fully visible and so that details such as their clothes or accessories stand out from the rest and remain open to the personal interpretation of whoever sees the photograph. I don't worry about composition, for me it is better to have an interesting subject before any composition rule.


Where is your most favourite place to go photograph?

No tengo un lugar favorito, pero me encanta las grandes ciudades, son un reto para mi, porque entre tanta gente que quiere ser diferente, encontrar a alguien que destaque genuinamente, es difícil. La pequeña ciudad en la que vivo, me ha dado muchas sorpresas que ni imaginaba encontrar y tienen un valor importante para mi y en ningún otro lado hubiera hecho algo similar.

I don't have a favourite place, but I love big cities, they are a challenge for me, because among so many people who want to be different, finding someone who genuinely stands out is difficult. The small city in which I live has given me many surprises that I did not imagine finding, and they have an important value for me and nowhere else would I have done something similar.



What happens when you go out with your camera? Do people respond positively to you, or do you sometimes get negative reactions? If yes, how do you handle it?

En EUA, definitivamente fotografiar "pareciendo turista" es más fácil, pero cuando no lo pareces si es complicado y es algo con lo que tengo que lidiar aquí en México, la gente se asusta por muy amigable que parezcas, siempre piensan mal, pero he aprendido a leer el entorno y saber cuando no sería un problema, porque no me gusta ocultar que estoy haciendo una foto.

In the US, photographing "looking like a tourist" is definitely easier, but when you don't look like it, it's complicated and it's something I have to deal with here in Mexico, people get scared, no matter how friendly you seem, they always think of the worst, but I've learned to read the environment and know when it would not be a problem, because I do not like to hide that I am taking a photo.


When you take pictures, do you usually have a concept in mind of what you want to shoot, or do you let the images just "come to you", or is it both?

Solo fotografío lo que captura mi atención, puede ser bueno o malo pero si es interesante para mi, hago la foto, no salgo con ideas en particular, pero busco algo interesante en una pequeña parte de luz, siempre voy caminando sin parar, tratando de capturar ese momento fugaz, tal cual como es la vida misma, de esa manera es más real para mi... no me quedo plantado en un sitio esperando a que pase algo, al menos para mi, no tiene sentido.

I only photograph what captures my attention, it can be good or bad, but if it is interesting for me, I take the photo. I do not come up with ideas in particular, but I look for something interesting in a small part of light, I always walk without stopping, trying to capture that fleeting moment, just as life itself is, in that way it is more real for me... I do not stand in a place waiting for something to happen, at least for me, it does not make sense.



Does the equipment you use help you in achieving your vision in your photography? (What camera do you use? Do you have a preferred lens/focal length?)

Totalmente, más que por el desempeño de la cámara, me siento agusto y me gusta. Fujifilm hace unos equipos hermosos y la experiencia que consigues es fantástica que a mi parecer, ninguna otra marca tiene.

Uso una Fujifilm X-T1 con el lente 35mm f2, por lo portátil y pequeño que es el conjunto, fácilmente puedes llevarla a cualquier lugrar.

Tambien uso una cámara analógica, la Rollei 35, otra cámara peculiar muy hermosa e interesante de usar.

Totally, more than the performance of the camera, I feel comfortable and I like it. Fujifilm makes beautiful equipment and the experience you get is fantastic that in my opinion no other brand has. I use a Fujifilm X-T1 with the 35mm f2 lens, so portable and small, you can easily take it anywhere. I also use an analog camera, the Rollei 35, another very beautiful, interesting and peculiar camera to use.



What are some of your goals as an artist or photographer? Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?

Quisiera hacer exhibiciones en al menos una ciudad de cada continente, me encantaría tener un laboratorio de impresión para uso personal y pedidos especiales para quien quiera piezas únicas y dedicarme a la fotografía por completo.

En los próximos 5 años me veo realizando largos viajes para futuros proyectos manteniendo mi manera peculiar de ver la realidad.

I would like to do exhibitions in at least one city on each continent, I would love to have a printing laboratory for personal use and special orders for those who want unique pieces and dedicate myself to photography completely.

In the next 5 years I see myself making long trips for future projects and keeping my peculiar way of seeing reality.



Are there any special projects you are currently working on that you would like to let everyone know about?

Si, tengo dos proyectos fotográficos pero los pospuse por la pandemia, pero mi actual proyecto es es mejorar y aprender tecnicas alternativas para imprimir mis propias fotografías en Gum Oil, Carbon Transfer y Platinum Palladium.

Yes, I have two photographic projects but I postponed them due to the pandemic, but my current project is to improve and learn alternative techniques to print my own photographs in Gum Oil, Carbon Transfer and Platinum Palladium.


“When I am not out photographing, I (like to)…”

...En realidad disfruto de lo simple... salir en bici, escuchar música y ver alguna serie o película."


I actually enjoy the simple things...riding my bike, listening to music and watching a series or movie.



Muchas gracias por la entrevista.


Thank you very much for the interview.



Thank you Jose!


All photos © Jose Manuel Castañeda Castillo

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