You have come across many cultures, is there a culture that has impressed you the most?
I’m always amazed by people living in rural and indigenous areas. To be precise, I’d highlight afroamerican and chachi communities living in small villages at the margins of the Chapalaa river, in Ecuador. In an isolated area, accessible only by boat, these two cultures prevailed, perfectly separated, yet together in some way. Afroamerican spoke spanish, while most chachi only spoke chapalaa. I was there conducting some research on their perceptions regarding community health care, and many aspects differed, despite proximity and a common recent history.
However, the foreign culture I’ve got to know better has been that from rural Angola. The reality has defied any possible preconception I may have had prior to my arrival. Rural areas there have only enjoyed 10 years of peace after a 25 years long civil war, and that certainly has contributed to shape and define the identity of the people.
How has photography changed your life?
I was about to say it hasn’t changed it, but the more I think about it, the more I realize it has. It has probably something to do with the way I look around me, and the way I’ve learnt to enjoy it, with a patience and dedication few have. I really like to spend some time every weekend just visiting new places that many would find uninteresting, talking to people just for the sake of getting to know the place, and capturing details with my camera the way I see them.
Which place you have seen did you feel closer to?
After two years living in rural Angola, I think I feel really close to it, at least to some places. It took me some time to understand how to approach people, how to begin a conversation with people that would regard me as a foreigner with little in common (and vice-versa), and how to break the ice. After getting used to it, and making the effort to go out of the comfort zone in order to know the place and the people living there, the reward was to realize it was easier than I had expected at first. It’s really nice to have a beer with some locals you never talked to before, to be able to ask questions about how things were and are, or to discover that everyone, everywhere, has sense of humor.
What kind of photo cameras do you prefer to use and why?
It depends. For street photography, I like small unobstrusive cameras, that can go unperceived. However, I also like using large sensors that allow for good pictures in low light situations, and to use a shallow depth of field. I have to find the perfect balance in the Fujifilm XPro-1 I’m using now. It doesn’t focus as fast as my 5D Mark II, but manual focus is accurate and easy to use, lenses are small and fast, manual controls are wonderful, and it is lightweight enough to carry it around everyday. For some other kind of photographs, I still prefer the 5D, though.
What do you like to do in your free time?
It depends on where I am, but I really enjoy taking pictures in my free time. I’m a medical doctor and work as a public health officer in international cooperation and development. I’ve learnt to combine that with photography, and usually use my camera to document our work and the context we work within. However, I usually charge batteries again every friday night, just before the weekend. I used to do that in Spain, and plan to do the same now I’ll probably be spending some months in Spain. I also like watching movies, running, and playing board games, though.
Are you working on something right now or do you have specific plans for the near future?
I have just left Angola, will be conducting some research in health issues the next few months, and, in a few months, would like to be back in the field, either conducting some more research in global health topics, or working in health and development with some NGO, anywhere. I really miss shooting street photography, as that’s something I could barely do these last two years, and I’m planning to do that at least once or twice every week until april. After that, I would love to have at least a couple of spare months before another public health related job, in order to contact some NGOs in need of documentary photography. When working in development and cooperation, it’s really hard to have enough time to focus in shooting and telling a particular story, and I feel that, right now, that’s something I want to give a chance to.
Interview by Emma Elina Keira Jones