Street chat with Margarita Vazquez Diaz

Casey Meshbesher
Jan 15, 2017 · 6 min read

Please tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from, where do you live now? Your background with photography, how and when you were drawn to the street genre.

I am the child of Spanish parents that emigrated to the UK in the 70s, in search of a better life. Then, last year, the family moved back to Spain, to enjoy the sunshine, space, and the peace of living in the Valencian countryside. It’s been a pretty smooth transition, the hardest challenge being the language. I can “get by” in Spanish, but not being able to communicate fluently with people is frustrating. But it will get easier.

I’ve spent most of my life being sort-of-English-but–not-quite, and now I’m sort-of-Spanish-but-not-quite. I guess it’s why I’ve always felt a like an outsider — on first appearances fitting in, but not quite seeing life like everyone else.

Once we decided to make the move over here, I gave up a career in advertising to pursue my love of photography. I’ve been drawn to the visual image since I can remember, and I dabbled with it in my younger days. Looking back now, I realise that I was scared to take the artistic leap and I decided to get “a proper job” instead. I don’t regret this choice, I’ve enjoyed my working life, but twenty years on, my love and interest in the still image has only become stronger — so here I am, finally, living the photographic life.

The standard advice given to people with an interest in photography is “shoot what you like,” and it is good advice. I’m interested in people and the ordinary — the quiet beauty, irony and humor of daily life. So street photography is a natural fit for me.

How do you define “street photography” for yourself?

A good all-round definition of street photography is found in Mary Warner Marien’s 100 ideas that changed photography: “Photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places.”

For me it’s more than this. It is observing how the human elements are sometimes poignantly at odds with their environment, and how at other times, they become intrinsic parts of it — colour, line and form working together to create interesting, almost abstract compositions.

Does your local situation affect your work?

When I lived in the UK, shooting street was easy, I simply stepped out of my front door. I lived in a busy tourist town, so never really had any issues photographing in public. But the social tone has changed in recent years, and the UK has become more hostile and paranoid towards people with cameras, it’s a sad sign of the times.

Living here in rural Spain, I am several kilometres from the nearest town, so it’s a trip out in the car, or on the motorbike to find people. It’s not going to stop me, it just means I have to travel a little further. I’ve already discovered some wonderful places that I shall be returning to this year.

In what ways do you think being a woman has affected your work?

I suppose, as with most things in life, being a woman has its pros and cons. I believe that being a woman with a camera makes me appear less threatening to people, and being 5ft 2” means I don’t stand out in a crowd, which I think also helps my style of photography. Beyond that, I can’t really comment on how being a woman affects my view of the world through the viewfinder; I think it probably has more influence on how my work is perceived by others.

Color or black and white, digital or film?

It’s colour and black and white for me, depending on subject matter, style and feel. I shoot mostly digital these days, but still enjoy winding a roll of 36 frames through the old Olympus OM-10, my first proper camera, every now and then. Years ago I had my own darkroom set up in a friend’s basement, but it’s been boxed up for over ten years now. I hope to get it out again one of these days, because the process is still so fascinating to me.

What photographers can you name who are the most inspirational to you?

There are just so many photographers whose works I admire and are inspirational to me. Particular favourites include: William Eggleston, Elliott Erwitt, Lee Friedlander, Josef Koudelka, Diane Arbus, Vivian Maier, Stephen Shore, Alex Soth and Martin Parr. I’m also a big fan of: Cig Harvey, Polly Gaillard, Susan Worsham, Terri Bright, Brian David Stevens, Adam Bellefeuil, Nancy Baron, Natalie Christensen, Anna Brody and Gus Powell. And these are just people that I know about now, I discover exciting new work every week.

Is there a special project you are working on? Or recurring themes you are often drawn to?

I am a massive fan of photozines and books. I’m a true believer that photographs are happiest when they’re prints, on a wall, or images on a page. This year I will produce a series of low-fi, low-cost and low-run zines. Styles and themes are yet to be worked out, but I’ll draw from my archive of images. I look forward to exploring how images work together in sequences and with text. I’m looking forward to getting started.

I am also working on my first serious “landscape” projects, based in our new home here in Valencia, which is a world away from our old home in the UK. One project features reservoirs; they’re everywhere here, and I find them fascinating. The other was originally focused on abandoned farmhouses, but there are so many other types of abandoned buildings around here, that I may well incorporate them all into one project. To me, they’re markers of the past, ghosts hanging about long after the people that created and lived in them have gone. I know it’s a not an original subject, but I find these things interesting because they’re new to me and I’m looking at them through the eyes of an outsider. And because I’m not familiar with their history, I’m free to invent it.

And I will of course continue with the street photography, and see how I deal with the challenge of these new streets.

Margarita Vazquez Diaz | Website | Instagram |

womeninstreet.com

Her Side of the Street

Street photography blogzine for women photographers, a publication of #womeninstreet

Casey Meshbesher

Written by

Minnesota street and fine art photographer. Founder @womeninstreet Street photography platform for women photographers. https://caseymeshbesher.com/

Her Side of the Street

Street photography blogzine for women photographers, a publication of #womeninstreet

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