"Everywhere I've been, my camera has helped me slow down to look at things more closely while also providing a conversation starter with the people I meet along the way."
By Carrie Gress
We are going to start featuring the captivating work of photographer Pedro Iglesia, who has lived and traveled all over the world, including Afghanistan and Nepal. We talked with Pedro about his inspiration and what he looks for when taking photos.
TOH: What got you interested in photography?
IGLESIA: My father was a photo enthusiast. When I was in third grade he and I made a pinhole camera using a cylindrical Quaker Oats container. I still have the photo I took of him wearing a bowler and smoking a cigar while holding my baby brother.
Growing up my grandparents gave us a subscription to National Geographic for Christmas every year and I loved the photos. I even went as far as removing the photos I loved, keeping them in a binder. Unfortunately, I lost that binder somewhere along the way.
When I was about 13 years old or so he gave me one of his old 35mm Konicas, along with advice and pointers on how to use the settings, how to frame a photo, how to use lighting, etc.
When I started traveling more on my own, I bought a 1978 Nikon FE and and really started experimenting with photography. I started reading books, using slide film (paying attention to color saturation, etc.), and took a darkroom class so I could better understand the process.
TOH: What are you trying to capture with your camera?
IGLESIA: Really, just about anything that catches my eye. I'm an enthusiast with a very busy family life, which means I have to take photos when I have the opportunity. I'm not seeking out particular places or scenes; I'm capturing what I can when I have the chance. Also, as an enthusiast who still has a lot to learn (and who would love to put more time and effort into the craft), I don't have a signature style or subject matter to chase.
Things that appeal to me are repeating patterns, shapes, interactions between colors or shapes, and people young and old.
TOH: What were some of the places that you've lived or visited that inspired your photos the most?
IGLESIA: There are so many. I've never been anywhere that I wouldn't want to spend more time. And everywhere I've been, my camera has helped me slow down to look at things more closely while also providing a conversation starter with the people I meet along the way. To that end, I often try to be a tourist in my own neighborhood, similarly using the camera as a way to slow down and look at details. Having a camera in hand helps me to notice things I might otherwise pass by. But that said, some of the places I've found most visually compelling are Afghanistan, Nepal, and Mexico.
Maybe it's the feeling of being a stranger in a strange land, but I usually feel more attentive to small details when I'm traveling and the images I capture tend to be simply people, scenes, or things I come across which prompt me to stop time through a photograph.
For me, photos are as much about making an image that hints at the truth and beauty of life on earth, but they also turn into visual reminders of places I've been, people I've met, and how I felt when I was there.
TOH: What are some of your favorites?
IGLESIA: My favorites are other people's photos! I love looking at how other photographers interact with the world--the subjects and themes, the way they frame photos and manipulate the camera to make an image, the choices they make about what to include in the frame.
Growing up under the influence of National Geographic made an impression on me. I really appreciate the photography of Sam Abell, Steve McCurry, Jim Brandenburg, and David Yarrow. I learn so much by looking at how others make photos.
As for my own photos, I have many favorites, but that's more because they evoke good memories than because of the merits of the photos themselves. That said, one that stands out as favorite for me is one I call Night Watch. It's of two Afghan soldiers sitting atop the ramparts of an ancient citadel in Afghanistan's Farah Province with the lamp glow coming from a small hut. The citadel was used as a weapons depot and there were unexploded ordinance everywhere. Dusk was fading to night and I was just trusting the footsteps of my friends in front of me. I looked up and saw what I thought would be a good photo. I was shooting 100 ISO slide film in my Nikon FE and it was way too dark to capture the image by holding the camera, so I opened up the aperture and slowed down the shutter--it was too dark to really even see the settings, so I was just guessing--steadied the camera on a gutted Soviet-era armored personnel carrier, and took the photo. Since it was slide film, I wouldn't see the image for months. Technically speaking, it's not very good. But it reminds me of a time in my life when I was on my own and completely reliant on my own judgement and the good will of the Afghans around me. It was a time when every day was filled with learning and I felt like my openness to the world around me paid back more than I could have hoped--lessons I've carried with me since. That image in particular encapsulates for me that rich time in my life.