Mexico Notebook: Q&A with Nahatan Navarro

From the series 'Chatrullete' © Nahatan Navarro

Hannah FrieserJaime Permuth and I have begun a collaboration to explore contemporary photography in Mexico. We're looking at trends and how they relate to traditions; events, institutions and venues; as well as pursuing conversations with curators, academics, gallerists and photographers on what's happening currently. This collaborative project will feature a variety of types of posts including interviews, book reviews, published letters, portfolios of images and more.

Hannah Frieser is a curator, photographer and book artist and former Executive Director of Light Work. Jaime Permuth is a Guatemalan photographer living and working in New York City and a Faculty Member at the School of Visual Arts.

We have been collaborating with the photographer Alejandro Cartagena as part of this project. Cartagena has overseen and executed a series of short interviews with photographers from Mexico that will be published over the coming weeks.

Today we continue this series with an interview of Nahatan Navarro by Cartagena.

Other posts in this series include:
Contemporary Photography in Oaxaca
Q&A with Aglae Cortés
Q&A with Maria José Sesma
Interview with César Rodríguez
Q&A with Nora Gómez
Q&A with Melba Arellano
Q&A with Jorge Taboada

Alejandro Cartagena lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico. His projects employ landscape and portraiture as a means to examine social, urban and environmental issues in the Latin-American region.

His work has been exhibited internationally in festivals like CONTACT in Toronto, The FIF in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, GuatePhoto festival in Guatemala City, FOTOFEST in Houston and UNSEEN by FOAM in Amsterdam among others. Alejandro's work has been published internationally in magazines and newspapers such as NewsweekLe MondeThe GuardianThe IndependentThe New York Times Lens BlogPDNThe New Yorker, and Wallpaper among others. His book Suburbia Mexicana was published by Photolucida and Daylight books in 2011.

He has received the Photolucida Critical Mass Book Award, the SNCA-CONACULTA grant for Mexican artists, the Premio IILA-Fotografia 2012 award in Rome, the Street Photography Award in London and a POYi reportage award of excellence, the Lente Latino award in Chile, the award Salon de la Fotografia from the Fototeca de Nuevo Leon in Mexico among other awards. He has been named a FOAM magazine Talent and one of PDN Magazine's 30 emerging photographers. He has also been a finalist for the Aperture Portfolio award, the Photoespaña Descubrimientos award, the FOAM Paul Huff award and has been nominated for the CENTER Santa Fe photography prize.

His work is in many private and public collections. He is currently represented by Circuit Gallery in Toronto, Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles and Galería Patricia Conde in Mexico City.

From the series 'Chatrullete' © Nahatan Navarro

This interview is presented first in English translation, then followed by the Spanish original.

Alejandro Cartagena: Where do you live and what you do?

Nahatan Navarro
: I live in the city of Hermosillo. I'm currently working for a cell phone company in the area of marketing and I'm taking classes at the PFC DEL NOROESTE DE MEXICO.

AC: How did you get started in photography?

NN: I studied communication and I have taken two semesters of photography in which I discovered photography as a medium of communication. I later took a workshop with Javier Ramírez Limón, in which I formally started my experience in photography.

From the series 'Chatrullete' © Nahatan Navarro

AC: When and what made you start considering producing photographic work to explore your personal concerns?

NN: I have always addressed what was around me at work in my photography; my work days used to be ten hours or more and my only option if I wanted to devote time to photography was to make it at work. That relationship continues today. I found in the photographic medium a strategy that allows me to take advantage of my various jobs.

AC: I truly related to your work because of this! I too was a 6am to 6pm worker and found myself taking pictures where I worked. But your strategies of the work being the "producer" of the physical objects and sometimes the provider of content is way more interesting. Tell us about some of your projects and the themes you approach through the images we are presenting.

NN: The "Sears" series is the appropriation of space, time and co-workers. It is a narrative about the moments of anger and discontent I felt in those days.

With "Office Depot" we see snapshots created by customers. They are images without function or a destination, beyond just passing time. I just wanted to appropriate them and present them. In them I see how people are not posing, how they are playing, being a little more real.

In "Chatrullete" on the contrary, I was interested in creating a catalog where people create poses to capture the viewer who is also acting within presentation standards embedded in the collective consciousness.

AC: How do you think about the history of Mexican photography in your work?

NN: History is something that we are required to know and appreciate, but in my case I'm not very tied to it. I don't distance myself from it completely, but you can use electronic media easily to investigate and see information from around the globe providing an alternate route forward which is the one I have taken. History is being formed in the country today through opportunities such as programs of contemporary photography where you have the chance to work with artists like Javier Ramírez Limón, Alejandro Cartagena, Adam Wiseman, Ramiro Chavez or Allen Frame. That is the history that will be tied closely to my future.

From the series 'Chatrullete' © Nahatan Navarro

From the series 'Chatrullete' © Nahatan Navarro

AC: Do you believe that there is any relationship in subject matter, form or any other aspect between photography in Mexico and the rest of Latin America?

NN: Yes. At present there are thematic relationships between them such as the cities and their growth; recording changes in infrastructure; the increasing desire for equality and political demands. I think that trends always exist, and they adapt themselves in one form or another locally.

AC: What are the issues being addressed both in contemporary photography in Mexico and outside of Mexico that interest you?

NN: I can't ignore the work of my classmates at the PFC: Alfredo Karam and his way of taking pictures with constancy and consistency. His work is a reaffirmation of reality and always an example for me. Carlos Licon and how he shows his psyche in his photographs interest me. Carlos Ivan Hernández and his references to the loss of propery or Luis Mercado and his project "This is not a city, this is not a town."

From the series 'Sears' © Nahatan Navarro

From the series 'Sears' © Nahatan Navarro

From the series 'Sears' © Nahatan Navarro

AC: What do you feel benefits you or is a problem with being based in Mexico?

NN: Talking with Alfredo Karam, he told me that maybe photography contests are poorly designed: they should encompass the body of work, not individual pieces. Showing just individual pieces is where the problem is, especially in how photographers seek to shock and amuse. I think those words are true. Institutional opportunities are few, however,  and sometimes scholarships and contests can solve that problem. I was lucky to cross paths with the teachers as I mentioned before. They are pillars for what I've done and they help you not to fall into this error of editing and creating on the basis of contests and open calls. They recommend evolving your work, and letting it mature first.

AC: Anything you'd like to say about contemporary photography in general?

NN: I don't think I can make any comments that would contribute anything to the vision of contemporary photography, but this type of photography helps me to understand and expand my projects and also gives me new tools to deal with my own life.

Spanish original / Texto original en español

Alejandro Cartagena: ¿Dónde vives y a qué te dedicas?

Nahatan Navarro: Vivo en la ciudad de Hermosillo, actualmente estoy trabajando en una compañía de celulares en el área de mercadotecnia y curso el PFC DEL NOROESTE DE MEXICO.

AC: ¿Cómo te iniciaste en la fotografía?

NN: Estudie comunicación y lleve dos semestres de fotografía en los cuales descubrí la fotografía como medio de comunicación. Tiempo después llevaría un taller con Javier Ramírez Limón, desde ese taller es que inicio formalmente mi experiencia con la fotografía.

AC: ¿Cuándo y que te hizo empezar a considerar producir trabajo fotográfico que explorara tus inquietudes personales?

NN: Desde siempre abordaba lo que estaba alrededor de mi trabajo; mis jornadas solían ser de diez horas o mas y mi única opción, si quería dedicar tiempo a la fotografía, era generarla desde mi trabajo. Esa relación sigue hasta hoy. Encontré en el medio fotográfico una estrategia que me permita sacar partida de mis múltiples empleos.

AC: Eso fue una de las cosas que más me interso de tus trabajos. Yo también era un trabajador de 6 am a 6 pm y tomaba fotos donde trabajaba. Pero tus estrategias de que tu propio sitio de trabajo sea el "productor" de los objetos físicos y de vez en cuando el proveedor de contenido es mucho más interesante. Platícanos un poco de tus proyectos y los temas que abordas en las imágenes que estamos presentando.

NN: La serie 'Sears' es la apropiación del espacio, tiempo y equipo laboral. Es una narrativa de sobre los momentos de enfado y descontento que experimentaba por esos días.

Con 'Office Depot' vemos snaps creadas por los clientes. Imágenes sin destino ni función alguna, mas allá de la de pasar el tiempo. Simplemente quería apropiarme de ellas y presentarlas. En ellas percibo como las personas se ven sin poses, jugando, siendo un poco mas reales.

En 'Chatrullete' por el contrario, me interesaba crear un catalogo donde las personas crean poses para retener al espectador quien se basa en los estándares de presentación insertados en el consciente colectivo.

From the series 'Office Depot' © Nahatan Navarro

AC: ¿De qué manera consideras la historia de la fotografía Mexicana en tu obra?

NN: La historia es algo que tenemos obligación que conocer y valorar, pero en mi caso creo que no voy de la mano con ella. No me deslindo completamente de ésta pero si puedo decir que la facilidad que te dan los medios electrónicos para investigar y ver información de todo el globo aportan una vía alterna y es la que he tomado. La historia que hoy se esta formando en el país con oportunidades como programas de fotografía contemporánea, donde te acercas a creadores como Javier Ramírez LimónAlejandro CartagenaAdam Wiseman, Ramiro ChavezAllen Frame. Esa historia es la que estará íntimamente relacionada a mi futuro.

AC: ¿Encuentras alguna relación de temas, forma o cualquier otro aspecto entre la fotografía en México y la del resto de America Latina?

NN: Sí. En estos momentos existen temáticas hermanas entre ambas, las ciudades y su crecimiento, registros de cambios en infraestructura, el creciente del deseo de igualdad y demandas. Creo que las tendencias siempre existen, se toman y se adaptan de alguna u otra forma.

From the series 'Office Depot' © Nahatan Navarro

AC: ¿Cuáles son los temas qué están siendo tratados en la fotografía contemporánea en México y también afuera de México que te interesen?

NN: En este momento no puedo ignorar en especifico el trabajo de mis compañeros en el PFC:
Alfredo Karam y su manera de llevar la fotografía con constancia y coherencia. Su obra es una reafirmación de la realidad  que siempre es un ejemplo para mi. Me interesa la forma en que Carlos Licon manifesta su psique en sus fotografías. Carlos Ivan Hernández y sus referencias a la idea de el despojo o Luis Mercado con su proyecto de 'This is not a city, this is not a town.'

AC: ¿Qué sientes te beneficia o problematiza producir desde México?

NN: Hablando con Alfredo Karam ante algunas preguntas mías me comento que quizá los concursos están mal planteados: Se tendría que englobar el cuerpo del trabajo, no piezas individuales. Ahí es donde esta  el problema, sobretodo que se busca el impacto, el asombrar. Esas palabras creo yo son verdaderas. Las oportunidades institucionales son pocas y aveces las becas y concursos pueden inmiscuir estas problematicas. Yo he tenido suerte de cruzarme en mi camino a maestros como los que mencione antes. Ellos son pilares en lo que he hecho y te ayudan a que no caigas en este error de edición y creación en base a concursos y convocatorias. Recomiendan evolucionar tus trabajos, madurarlos.

AC: ¿Algo que quisieras comentar sobre la fotografía contemporánea en general ?

NN: No creo poder dar un comentario que aporte algo a la visión de la fotografía contemporánea, pero este tipo de fotografía me ayuda a entender y expandir mis proyectos y también obtener nuevas herramientas para abordar mi propio vivir.

From the series 'Office Depot' © Nahatan Navarro