Meet Maximiliano. Born in 1983 in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, he studied at the University of Utah and then in completed his MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography in London where he now lives and works.
While I found his still life photography in the Elephant & Caste Community book published by the London College of Communication, his real interest lies in reportage photography. He is currently expanding on a project called Stay With Me, building a database of multimedia and photographic experiences from families and individuals who have been affected by brain injury.
Maximiliano has taken some time out to answer a few questions for this week’s London Art Spot. He talks about his experience working in the Heygate Estate in Elephant & Castle, lets us in on the expected outcome of his Stay With Me project and shares some of his wonderful photography.
LLO: Which aspects of London life most influence your photography?
MB: I think the fact your have so many galleries, awards and other contests based in London, and the UK as a whole, helps seeing the diversity of work coming up from the young emerging photographers to those who are more established and, in many cases (like the Barbican’s This is War and the travelling World Press Photo exhibitions) works that are seldom seen in other cities.
LLO: I first came across your work in the Community book put out by London College of Communication as part of the Elephant & Castle project, an area that is now being regenerated. Tell us a bit about your experience working on the book
MB: The book was edited by Patrick Sutherland and promoted by the London College of Communication and Southwark Council. As the book mentions, Southwark Council and LCC’s MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography students are commissioned to produce a body of work about the Elephant and Castle area and the changes and life that develop there. The area, as you note, is being regenerated and the book helps keep record of the Elephant and Castle life, architecture and it’s citizens seen through the eyes of those attending the MA at LCC.
The idea from doing Cast Off came after a colleague of mine told me that apartments were being sealed permanently at the Heygate Estate. They do this to avoid squatters to populate the vacated apartments which, eventually, will be demolished to allow for new estate housing projects being developed. I always thought that objects possessed by people tell something about themselves. So I set out to document the objects left behind found in the vacated apartments to speculate about what kind of people lived there.
LLO: You said this still life work was a one off and you are now a reportage photographer. What have you gained both personally and professionally from switching your approach?
MB: I began doing reportage, or trained for it, before the Elephant and Castle project. The idea of the work is not far, if at all, from the idea of producing a photographic reportage, though it does not contain the traditional approach to reportage. The viewer is welcome to assess the work however they want, but it would be misleading to imagine that I was not doing reportage before the Elephant and Castle project. There were other more traditional reportage ideas that I would have wanted to do during that term, but neither of them came to fruition.
LLO: Your most recent project is called Stay With Me, quite different from what you were doing in the Elephant. How did this project start?
MB: Stay With Me has been a long running project that began during the MA at LCC. I would say Stay With Me, so far, and compared to my Dad series, is what I have always dreamt of developing since I began doing documentary photography. Roughly in 2004 I read an article in a newspaper about a mother who visited her child who was then, and maybe still is, in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). As my father is old (99 now), I’ve had the experience of being in hospitals throughout my youth and I could clearly sympathise with the woman written about in the article. It struck me deeply and I never forgot about it. When, for our thesis project at LCC, I was given the chance to document whatever I was interested in, I remembered the article and I decided to find out what is life like for families who have a relative in a PVS. Stay With Me, since then, evolved into looking at family and brain injury as a whole and the way life goes on.
LLO: It’s a worldwide project. Where have been shooting and researching for it so far?
MB: I have documented families in the US, England, Northern Ireland, South Africa and soon will do some work in Bolivia.
LLO: Tell us a bit about what you hope it will achieve and what will be the final result.
MB: Stay With Me will, in time, become a segmented story of families around the globe and the lives they lead dealing with brain injury. Stay With Me’s own website will become more interactive not only for the viewers, but for the families that participated by allowing me to document their everyday. There will be a blog type page for every family for them to update the site and its viewers on the latest developments in their lives.
LLO: What is the biggest challenge you’ve had to face so far to get a shot you wanted?
MB: I cannot recall specific shots I ‘wanted’. I pretty much go with the flow with everyone I document. Challenges come out every time when you are shooting. The real and constant challenge is to convey in a photograph what you see and make sure it is good enough the audience gets a hint of it.
LLO: Before completing your MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography, you studied Anthropology, Mathematics, French and Photography at the University of Utah and then Fashion Photography in London – an interesting mix. How does this background play into your interests and work today?
MB: I think that all you do and have done in the past influences you in one way or another. Anthropology is useful in photojournalism, as well as speaking other languages. I did fashion photography because I like the idea of creating imagery from nothing. I liked the commercial aspect of it and thought of it as an interesting vessel to communicate ideas, dreams and lifestyles. I began doing documentary because I wanted a more interactive and investigative approach to things I was interested in. As you know and encounter several people around you during your life, you learn several things. All those I have know from the US and those I got to know in the UK and abroad have helped me in looking at things with a diversity of viewpoints. I think the most important aspect I have learnt is how to interact with different people when working.
LLO: You have some stunning and emotional images in a series called Dad on your website. Can you share one of your favourites and tell us a bit about this collection?
MB: I just want to remember my father and my time with him. There really isn’t much to it beyond that.
LLO: Have you thought about other subjects you’d like to tackle photographically in the future?
MB: I only tackle things photographically, I don’t know what else I can do, really. I have several subjects in my mind. I always run with at least 3 projects in my mind; the one I am shooting, one that I am about to shoot and one I am beginning to research into. Unfortunately some of these are time sensitive and I won’t be able to elaborate more on them.
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