José María Mellado: The Spanish Photographer who saw the future
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by Editor Vicente Dolz
After reading his first two books (the former was the photography volume most read in Spain), I decided to attend a master class with Mellado, not only because of the “live” learning but also to personally meet José María, so in 2013 I took advantage of a master class he gave in Cabo de Gata (Almería).
I also come across him in Iceland. He was giving a private master class and I was on a family trip.
We will try, if possible, to get to know the most personal Mellado, the Mellado of yesterday and tomorrow.
What are you into now in the photography area?
Concurrently, I continue working on new projects, slightly deviating from my usual line. This is always a risk, but I do not want to get stuck in the same kind of photograph. That is the reason why the exhibition and publishing project CLOSER already entailed a considerable change of tack. I want to go on taking risks.
What is your opinion on international photography? Would you say that, as an art, it has an appropriate recognition? Is it understood differently in each country?
There are areas of influence where photography has an expression of its own. It is interesting to observe how galleries themselves make very different proposals in Art Basel from those in Art Miami Basel to adapt to the American or European tastes. In art fairs of some countries such as Turkey or China the proposals’ adjustment to the country in question can also be appreciated.
What will be after digital photography? Are we in the “post-photographic” era, as Joan Fontcuberta says?The widespread growth of images we are immersed in, which has been favoured by the democratisation of photography, has undoubtedly changed the rules of the game. Nowadays, there is a wide range of new uses for this discipline and we are adapting to them.
Even so, I do not really agree with some of the approaches of the well-known “post-photography”. For example, with the fact that: “photography has lost its fundamental values such as truth, memory and the archive”, as Fontcuberta asserts. Photoshop is just a new form of image manipulation, but I consider that photography has never represented the truth, and from the very beginning it has been manipulated. It is naïve to believe the opposite.
What I do believe is that photography has acquired other dimensions previously unimaginable and it has become mature as a main visual language with which the general public is learning to communicate. And I think that is fantastic.
How did you decide to write the first book about photographic technique?
I felt the need to investigate new tools to achieve similar-quality results to those that chemical photography (I would like to call it “classic”) allowed me to. I showed the results of such research in the form of articles I wrote in some forums such as that managed by Manuel Santos, and I also performed some workshops. As a result of such involvement in sharing my knowledge, some students suggested me to write a book telling all that. And that was how “Fotografía digital de alta calidad” (“High-quality digital photography”) emerged. The title referred to my ultimate goal of achieving the maximum quality with the new tools. That book was successful because it helped many photographers to perform an adequate transition to the digital area.
How many books have you already written?
Are your books translated to other languages?
Which photographer do you remember to have had an impact on you when you started? Which photographer does impress you now?
In your opinion, what do you think is the most common mistake made by amateur photographers?
How had your personal experiences affected your photographs? I mean, do you take a specific type of photo at a particular pessimistic moment and a different kind at an optimistic one?
If you had to choose only one, which photograph would you say that made you well-known, famous?
Is it possible to make a living with photography? Have you achieved so?
Regarding cameras, do you still recommend reflex camera?
I think that the debate about photo processing is finally over, whether they are processed at a great extent or not. For me, it is a thing of the past. What do you think?
Converting an abandoned petrol station into a beautiful photo, does it have to do with the way of looking or with the processing?
Which of your photographic stages do you miss? That of black and white social report, industrial archaeology… Are you focused on the landscape right now?
The series of Industrial archaeology gave me a lot of satisfaction too. And also when I discovered that I could do the same digitally with colour photos than what I did in the black and white lab.
It seems to me that you are introducing in your landscape or industrial photography the human element in a greater way. Is that true?
Will we all end up taking photographs with the mobile phone? Will cameras become cult objects?
Do you think that vinyl records, film rolls and diesel cars will return?
Awkward question: Are you going to write more books about Lightroom?
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