20% off Joel's limited edition prints during September
Use code JS2016
Tell us about yourself!
I grew up with one foot in Mexico and the other in the United States. I've always juggled two languages, two cultures and two visions of the world.
I became more “worldly” after working ten years as a photo journalist, winning awards along the way as I traveled to mostly Latin American and European countries. After several trips to Spain I decided to move there in 1999 and launch my commitment to fine art photography. After more than 30 years I still have a love affair with photography, my mistress of sorts.
Agave Azul, Joel Salcido
How did you first discover photography?
I first discovered the mystery of photography while playing at my grandmother's house in Mexico. We were playing hide-and-seek and I hid inside a box that went dark with the exception of this reversed image that looked like a perfect replica of the outside world. That mental imprint left me mesmerized and years later I started ordering $2.00 cameras from the back of comic books. Eventually I became a staff photographer at my high school newspaper and yearbook. Soon after, a friend took me to his basement darkroom to teach me black and white printing. When I saw that first image permeate onto paper it was as if I had witnessed the miracle of a lifetime.
Which artists do you admire?
Picasso's affinity for the brave bull of Spain has always seduced me, I love to study Rembrandt's lighting and I wish I could photograph like Andrew Wyeth painted. Photographers, there are plenty, but my first influences were Ansel Adams and Eugene Smith. I've spent most of my career trying to merge those two into my work. I love Dan Winters, Nadav Kander and the phenomenal work of Simen Johan. Please don't get me wrong, there are plenty more heroes! Sebasiåo Salgado, Albert Watson, Mark Tucker…
Do you plan your shoots, or do you have your camera ready in case you see something interesting?
Unlike many accomplished photographers I rarely walk around with my camera every moment of the day. However, when I hang a camera on my shoulder I am immediately at war with the obvious, as William Eggleston eloquently phrased. I become very focused and dive into a totally different mindset and intellectual realm that is difficult to explain. I go into a sort of creative trance, if you will.
I will normally find a subject that I feel intrigued by, passionate about, challenging or all of the above. Then I organize the logistics of the trip. These days most of my projects are planned out but in a very loose way, allowing space and time for those tiny miracles to happen within the reality of our very unpredictable world. At times I inspire and motivate myself by mentally pre-visualizing or imagining the images I would LOVE to make. Then I go out to find them.
The perfect day of photography is the magical moment when light, subject and composition intersect in time.
Left: Valentine, Tx // Right: Ode to Sunset
What piece of equipment could you never go on a shoot without?
A tripod, especially nowadays with digital sensors being so hyper sensitive to movement. I can effectively hand hold a film camera to 1/8 of a second without a tripod. Incredibly enough, I struggle to keep a digital camera steady at speeds of 125th or 200th of a second. Which is really ridiculous if you think about it. Also, a 55mm macro lens is still a favorite of mine, especially when you shoot it wide open at f2.8.. It just has an affinity of its own.
Your imagery conveys a strong sense of place. Is this what drives your work?
For almost a lifetime, photography has opened the doors to an amazing landscape of human experiences that quite honestly I never would have had the privilege of witnessing had it not been for the instrument of access; the camera. I’ve always been incredibly curious and as I get older I find myself seeking refuge in landscapes or a sense of place that explores tranquility, peace, spirituality, and outright beauty. I have a profound need to be part of it all. Photography is my religion, sometimes I move with blind faith, I have a deep and urgent desire to create.
Left: Marfa Blimp // Center: Marfa Crows // Right: Marfa Tower
How does your art affect the way you see the world?
Interesting question! As a former photojournalist I was always capturing the worst and best of humanity. Eventually the worst of humanity took its toll on my soul and my psyche. I then made a commitment to point the camera at those things that glorified the good still left.
What do you hope the viewer takes from your images?
My constant goal as a photographer is to accomplish the nearly impossible task of creating images that transcend time… I mostly fail, but sometimes I succeed. That is the driving force behind my photography. For me, photography works at three levels: the literal, the aesthetic and the spiritual. If a single image can carry the weight of those three elements, you should have a photograph that likely can withstand the test of time and therefore become transcendent.
Grand Canyon 2
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m always juggling multiple projects at one time which sometimes drives me crazy because they are all demanding and pulling at me at the same time. For example, I am currently working on three projects; a yet unfinished series on brave bulls, another on the art of dying and a third one on Texas Hispanic writers. In between, I just wrapped up a series on a historical Mexican hacienda just south of Mexico City.
Analogue vs Digital. What is your preference? Do you have any thoughts on the topic?
When I was forced by my clients to convert to digital I was incredibly hesitant. Not only was I paranoid about the cost of it all, but I also didn’t truly believe or trust zeros and ones! Fast forward ten years or so, I would now love to own a medium format digital camera, not only for the incredibly gorgeous files with seemingly infinite tonal ranges but also for the convenience and speed of digital post processing. Having said that, I still shoot film with a Hasselblad medium format camera. The aesthetics of film are truly unique and special in their own right. More importantly, the analog medium format cameras force you to completely slow down the creative process. With only 12 exposures at hand making pictures becomes a very serious intellectual exercise. With film, EVERY frame counts.
Left: Longhorns 1 // Right: Longhorns 2 // Below: Longhorns 3
I travel to Spain frequently… I love everything about it - exotic landscapes, historical architecture and food! And it helps that Spaniards are outright fun and passionate people.
Exercise is really important to me. It keeps me mentally focused and is a huge part of my meditative and creative mindset. Some great ideas have popped into my head during my 3-mile run. Besides travel and exercise I love museums or anything that will inspire creativity or beauty. Be it landscape, architecture or the human condition.
Do you have any shows on the horizon? Where can we see more work?
I’m opening my Aliento A Tequila exhibit at the Mexican Consulate in Dallas come September and the same show is traveling to La Rioja in northern Spain the summer of 2017.
My work is now in the following collections and institutions: The Austonian, The Wittliff Southwestern and Mexican Photography Collection at Texas State University-San Marcos, The El Paso Museum of Art, the Harry Ransom Humanities Center at UT Austin and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. The latest acquisitions have been made by the Federal Reserve Bank in El Paso, Texas, UT San Antonio and the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, China.
Recently, one of my images, "Atotonilco El Alto" has being inducted into the National Heritage Art Collection of Mexico and now resides in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Mexico City. Also, I just signed a book contract with Trinity University Press to publish a book on my series Aliento A Tequila!
Finally… you can always visit my websites for a general overview of my work: