From his first peep at Playboy to his recent work with M.I.A., Mexico’s very own Jaime Martínez has had one of the most impressive, star (indie) studded careers imaginable. His unique eye and creative vision are impressive, while his imagination and dream-scape realities evoke just as much as they provoke. Chatting back and forth with Martínez through several emails, it became more and more clear that this multi-disciplinary talent wasn’t out to make himself an art-scenester. But with a CV that includes Vice Magazine covers and band photos from indie-avant-punksters from around the world, how could Martinez be anything but a superstar? Thing is, chances are you’ve probably seen his work and didn’t even know it.
As I’m wrapping up our interview correspondence, I casually mention this stellar EP by this Mexican band, Neon Walrus that I just wrote a review for and recently saw perform. I pass him the link, and whadd’ya know, Martínez replies, “I shot that photo.” That’s the way it works in this business, you make the band look pretty and your name goes unnoticed. But, not today. Today we celebrate the tireless work and creative genius of one of Mexico’s most influential artists: Jaime Martínez. Watch as his “realities and unrealities” astound.
Thank you for the interview, Jaime. What were some of your first memories or interactions with art?
When I was a kid, about 6 years old, I found some Playboy magazines that my father was hiding somewhere in the house.
How did you break into the art scene? Did you find it frustrating to infiltrate?
I don’t think I have actually infiltrated into that scene, actually I would like more to be part of a music scene or any other kind of scene. About the art scene, no frustrations in that side, I don’t have anything against the art scene I just don’t stress about it. In fact some of my friends criticizes me that I don’t make efforts to move my stuff in galleries or exhibitions or art fairs. Don’t take me wrong, I love to participate in those events, but most of the shows I have participated in is because they invite me.
Your technical eye and imagination seem to be fused together, when was the moment that you finally felt like your vision was matching your final product, or has it always been so effortless?
Since the beginning I learned to work with what I had. I mean not many resources or equipment, and that helped me to get more creative with the few techniques I knew. I still like to work like that. I wouldn’t say “effortless”, I feel somehow it has been always fuzed together, but maybe in the last 2 years I have been getting better results.
In 2005 you did a series of photo-collages that delineate a stark contrast between, what looks like the sprawling suburbs of Mexico City, or some unidentifiable Latin American city with the towering, exaggerated facade of a U.S. American-style suburban home. What of this juxtaposition? What was your intent?
(I think you mean 2006) It is just a game of proportions and sizes and reality, there is no social or political meaning. The small houses are from some city in Mexico and the big houses are photos I took in Germany, in that time I had a German girlfriend. Probably there are other meanings but I’m not aware of them.
I’ve noticed a trend or fascination with snow, ice and subverted natural landscapes, where alien abductions and naked bodies float between existence and extinction, where do these starkly contrasting images come from? What runs through your mind when you’re constructing these worlds?
I keep going behind dreams and fantasies I had when I was a kid and a teenager. What runs through my mind? Mmm, I think I’m always trying to escape from something.
Your notorious experimentation and playfulness is abound, I wonder what your dreams are like? Are they as vivid as your work?
A lot more vivid! I still would like to represent my dreams, we all want to do that in some way, not only through photos. My photos are still far from my dreams.
Do you come to a set with an intended vision or do you construct your realities with each photo shoot?
Sometimes I would like to plan more before the shooting, but actually every time is different. Sometimes the photo is finished just right after the click and sometimes I do 99% post-production from a 1% I took from a really bad photo or still frame made with my cellphone. But anyhow, yes I like to construct realities and unrealities.
How much do you collaborate with your subjects, your models, when doing commercial work?
Less than I would like. When doing commercial normally there is no time to get to know the person as much as I would prefer. Some counted times it is possible to connect quickly with some people but normally I need more time, I’m slow at that.
What’s the hardest work to accomplish your fashion shoots, magazine covers, or your own creative efforts?
See the previous answer. Also, normally I’m a shy person and often it is difficult for me tell the directions to the subject, and sometimes I get frustrated I don’t know how to verbally communicate my ideas. Because of that reason sometimes at the end of some shots I end unsatisfied because I know it could have gone better and I could have taken better pics if I had communicated more fluid. That’s why I work better with friends or persons which I already know I have good chemistry.
Of the many bands you’ve shot photos for, I wonder which groups or artists you still hold lasting, personal relationships with.
Yes I have made some friends from bands -in different levels of friendship- like Au revoir Simone, M.I.A., Twin Sister, Norman Palm, Kap Bambino. Also from some new mexican bands -from my hometown mainly-, like Bam Bam, Mentira Mentira, Alexico, Neon Walrus, Lorelle Meets the Obsolete.
What are you subverting with your art? Is your art a catharsis, a fix, a passion or something else all together?
I haven’t thought too much on that, but I’m sure it’s mainly a passion. I love images, and if I have some ability to create some I’m happy doing that. When I started to take photos (when I was a teenager) the main reason was that I wanted to preserve moments and memories, and somehow freeze time and keep some frames of my life forever.
How would you describe Mexico’s art scene today? What are its major downfalls and successes?
As I said before, I’m not very connected to that scene. But from some cases I have seen, there is a trend of wanting to have success really soon and they want to do that copying the art of other successful international artist. I don’t know many, but I know there are some young mexican artists doing fresh stuff and having international success, and by success I mean selling their art pieces.
What’s the one thing you’ve been searching for but have never been able to find?
REAL magic. Supernatural powers.
You recently directed a video for Mentira Mentira. Is that the first music video you’ve directed? How does working in video vs. still images change your process?
Yes, that’s the first one. I’m recently trying more experimentation with video, when I was younger there was a period when I made more videos than photos, but I never was satisfied with the results. This year I will try to publish more videos, music videos and other kinds of videos. The process is more or less the same, for me the difference I see is a matter of time: a video is a long photo or a photo is a frame/moment taken from a longer period of time.