There is a surreal quality to the images Fernando Flores creates, whether they are pure documentary or staged portraits. I sense that Fernando Flores approaches the world the way Hemingway approached words. He looks at the world as if he were looking at it for the first time with every photograph. His images read like Nabokov’s poetic prose. Every light, shadow, color, and form flow together within his frames. The following words are taken from a conversation over coffee about photography, kissing beautiful women, bad posture, and about one of his heroes getting stabbed in the throat.
How did you get started in photography?
Writing and photography both happened at the same time. A friend of mine had a 35mm camera lying around and another friend had a typewriter lying around and they were both given to me. So, whenever I wasn’t writing I was taking photographs. When I moved to Austin I was living in someone’s living room for a while and whenever I wasn’t working I’d go to art galleries. They had an Annie Leibovitz exhibition, portraits of musicians and stuff, and it happened within the week of me getting that camera. I saw her work and that really blew my mind. About two years later the AMOA had that Sebastio Salgado show. That was amazing, too. That blew my mind even further. That’s the same year I got into Magnum photographers and really discovering that aspect of photography.
Your camera is special in that it offers a certain limitation to your craft. Tell us about it.
Nikon FM2 from 1982, which is the year I was born. I’ve had it since 2006. The lens has been stuck on there since 2007. It’s a 28mm lens.I love it. This camera dictates the kind of photographs that I take because the lens is stuck there. I can’t take too narrow of a portrait. I’ve kind of developed my visual sense around it. But, I can still get close. The depth of field is different but I’m comfortable with it. I love this camera. I have color film in it right now.
On shooting film…
I read an interview with Jack White (of The White Stripes) and he was talking about how he records his music with old tapes, reel to reel, and the way he cuts it, he actually splices into the tape. He doesn’t use any computers to record. He feels he needs to have a relationship with it. He needs to touch it. He needs to be around it. That’s why I write on a typewriter. I need to be able to feel my pages. I need to be able to feel my film and to see the negatives.
So, no Tumblr anytime soon?
I like to be on the internet as little as possible, because it’s so time consuming. I could never do it. But it makes me really happy to be around people who embrace it.
The thing about street photography…
There’s something to be said about the gamble.Otherwise it’s not exciting to me. You lose a lot, but fuck it. It’s worth it when you win. […] That’s what I love about photography, too. The waiting game: It’s like kissing a beautiful woman. You know, when you go a long time without kissing anybody, and then you kiss a beautiful woman and it’s all worth it. You go around with a camera and you may not take a photograph for 3 or 4 days, but when you finally do, it’s like, God, fuck yeah. This is why the fuck I’m doing this. This is why I lug around this camera, this is why my posture sucks, this is why I’m broke all the time… because of those images.
In general, what’s blowing your mind these days?
I just discovered this writer named Clarice Lispector. Her last novel was called The Hour in the Star, and I read that and she’s got so many amazing great lines in there. Huddie Ledbetter, been listening to a lot of that. I love the songs about the south. And, that guy was crazy. When he was in jail he got stabbed in the neck and he pulled the knife out and killed the other guy with the knife he got stabbed in the neck with.
Advice to young/new photographers?
You can get stuck in a certain shell. You’re only aware of your own time and place. I always recommend for people to push and learn more. Discover, explore, teach yourself. Go back as far as the history of your medium. Know the people that first pushed it and tried to do crazy things with it. Don’t become stagnant or too comfortable with what you’re doing. Don’t be too quick to praise your own work because there’s always somebody out there who’s doing shit that’s better than you.
Interview by Eric Morales