On June 20th, Tino Soriano arrived; Tino was our National Geographic mentor, and true leader and spirit of the expedition, it is a shame that he had to stay for such a short time. At first, I was rather skeptical about Tino's merit and integrity, he shared concepts on the first night that were foreign to me. His style hit me harder than anybody else in the group, because I have been exposed to styles that merely subject the viewer to utter beauty, but his concepts threw that out the door, and recycled them into a different substance. For the past two years, I have done photographic documentation of the places I went, including France, Italy, and Sante Fe. At my workshop in Santa Fe, I will admit that the class was a bust, it attempted to explore the visual aspects of photographic perception in the real world contrary to a lense, basically shooting what we thought looked good. That kind of crap became boring, overdone, and simply ridiculous, and at that point, my opinion of photography began to shift to a negative spectrum. From France to Santa Fe, I had shot thousands of the same shot, I realized. Sitting in the garden patio below, with Tino at the wheel of the ship, I understood the wall I had hit with photography, and hence understood my expectations with my new teacher. Tino Soriano started shooting photographs at the age of 22, he worked his way up by publishing his own work in photojournalism, finding stories just as someone trying to catch the wind. As soon as he made money off of a story, he began traveling to foreign countries to broaden his palette for his stories and lenses. After some 4 years of his travels and documentation, he had sold a good set of travel related commercial photography, but Tino became dissatisfied with this work, he was bored at this point, because his work was all the same, he felt that photographers everywhere were taking the same shots. This realization is much the same as the dissatisfaction I now find in my work. Eventually, Tino was contacted by National Geographic to take on small assignments, such were situated in restaurants, not to Tino's surprise. He knew this was the kind of work to expect, being an amateur to the magazine. Tino would not take the traditionally composed photograph wherever he traveled, he would find ways to instill curiosity in the reader by capturing a different angle, one that makes you think more. His sense for color was strong, and he tended to favor color in his compositions. He taught me that if you can take shots of people, you can shoot anything else, such as architecture, because humans have sensibilities and conditions that a building doesnt. In short, his photographs utilized all aspects of composition, including silhouettes, repetitions, strong lighting, proper expositions for capturing motion, strong color scheme, and most importantly, capturing the special moment where emotions come out of hiding. Tino achieved such special photographs by doing what he called, "fishing"; Tino, like many of the great photographers of all time, would have a vision, or a concept, and sit for extended periods, just waiting for a unique shot which displayed the desired elements. I believe that this style of photography, can be achieved at any place or time, but sometimes it is not always about telling a story, but setting up your own story. In travel photography terms, this is impossible though, so I will stick with what needs to be done.
Yes, this is Tino.
On the last day with Tino, we visited a Flamenco studio, where dancers practiced their step, this was obviously new to me, but I thoroughly enjoyed this traditional spanish dance. The Girls not only graceful, but full of vigor, and explosive, twirling tenacity. The dance was serene, yet shook the earth and shattered glass. The team of dancers would line up, and one dancer would step forward. The finesse and feminine hands began smashing together, as moments passed, the frequency of the claps picked up, as did the motion of the woman in focus. You wait in anticipation for the explosion as the thunder continues to roll, the expression on the woman's face tightens, and in one instant, she then dances in unison with the climax of the thunder. This was clearly an art of rythm, form, and even color; on that day, I understood the power of dance. One of the dancers stood out to me as the most beautiful, at the end of the session, I focused on her, and captured one of my favorite photos of the day, although it wasn't entirely spectacular.
The 26th was an important day in the expedition, we set out without Tino, to watch matadors at work. The past day was a breathtaking view on the inside of the traditional culture, but bull fighting is more relevant to my image of definitive Spanish tradition. We did not just watch conventional bull fighting, we did not sit amongst thousands of cheering and jeering spaniards. We witnessed a more exclusive event within the world of bull fighting. The bus drive did not take more than 30 minutes, we arrived at a farm in the rolling countryside. That afternoon, the matadors were performing a test of natural selection, observing several young, fertile cow's traits for the sake of breeding vehement and powerful bulls for the official public bull fights. The process involved agitating the cow, and wearing it down, while watching how it fights, in order to determine which cow is superior, the cows that did not make the cut were to be eaten. The cows were entirely wild, build to fight, and formidable in the face of danger. To start, the cow is released into the ring, upon first sight of the matador wielding bright tapestry, the cow sprints out wildly, only to be dodged and manipulated by the crafty and confident matadors. After a few passes with the matadors on foot, the cow is led to a spear wielding matador on a kevlar shielded horse. The cow charges, slams into the side of the horse, then receives the tip of the lance in its back, this process is merely to draw blood. This entire dance is repeated several times, up until the finale with the tier 1 matador, where the bull and matador create a flurry of blood and dust. We watched this process until the sun set, the sky washed the landscape with vanilla and fire.