I am a text-heavy kinda guy. I enjoy reading and writing articles that stretch on for five thousand words or more. Normally, I don't consciously pay much attention to the accompanying photographs or illustrations. And I am the kind of reporter who kvetches about losing words because "there's great art."
But, the photographs accompanying the NYT article "The Washington Back Channel" by Max Frankel (fine article, by the way) knocked the wind out of me. The photo of the spiral reporter's notebook evoked a sensation of singular evil. It immediately threw me back to my years in Argentina and Chile where I interviewed many torture victims and relatives of the desaparecidos. I thought the photographer had to be an Argentine or Chilean immigrant. Well, I was wrong.
The photographs were taken by Horacio Salinas who is the New York-born son of Argentine immigrants. I looked up his other work, which you can see here. On a whim, I decided to call him up and see if he might agree to be interviewed for my upcoming Web site LatinoPopCulture.com (nothing there yet) I left a message figuring that was the end of that. Quite graciously and quite quickly he returned my call and agreed to chat.
I am not an art critic and lack the language and understanding to write with intelligence about the aesthetic value of his photographs. Soooo I'll just reproduce part of the q&a. When the LatinoPopCulture.com site is up and running I will post a full transcript of the interview and some additional background information.
PS My digital recorder wasn't working for the interview (turns out it wasn't plugged in properly) so the partial transcript is based on my typewritten notes. His answers are very close to verbatim. My questions are rough approximations.
Q: Did you
read the article before taking the photographs?
A: No, no. I
basically just knew about the story by following it. I knew about the reporter who had gone to
prison and thought that was more of an interesting image to focus on. The notepad, I felt like,
we made it look like a prison. I call that the Judith Miller picture.
Q: When I saw the photographs it made me think of the desaparecidos. Was that intentional?
A: I didn't think it about that way. I am glad it had that darkness. I was feeling pretty dark. They said to me 'we want it to be very noir, old-school, black-and-white, like a detective film'.
Q: You sounded surprised when I mentioned the desaparecidos. Were you?
A: Yeah, I've
read a lot about that [period] but it never crossed my mind at all. I was just trying to
look at it as the Watergate of this generation.
Q: Why the Blackberry?
A: We had to
shoot a phone for the cover. That was a constraint [because] I always like to have my own
ideas. The Blackberry and the phone were not my ideas. The two things that I
wanted were the blinds and the notepad with the shadow of the spiral itself.
If I have to do one picture about a topic, I want that picture to say everything in a second.
Q: Do you think of yourself as a New Yorker, a Latino, the son of Argentine immigrants? All of the above? None of the above?
All of the above. I think of myself as a New Yorker who is the son of immigrants. Being Latin is a very big part of my life. I watched my dad struggle. He came here in his 20s with no money, no language, no prospects and said 'let´s have kids'. It is incredible.
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