- An Interview with Martin Alvarado*
I assume that you began your career as a photographer rather than as a TV producer. Will you talk about your work as a photographer, how you came to that profession?
I discovered photography at twenty-one years of age. It was a very painful process in my career. I've never said this before, but it was because of my parents' separation. My father left me when I was eleven years old, and he came back when I was twenty-one, when I started this career. I felt very trapped inside myself, where I wanted to express my feelings.
I took all the technical paths here in Peru, like electricity, electronics, mechanics, automotive mechanics, but I didn't even last fifteen days. I would see that that wasn't my thing, and I would withdraw until I started to search for ways to express my thoughts to others, and I managed to find this sports photography thing. There, I wanted to hear the bustle, I wanted to hear voices, I wanted to see joy, sadness, and at the same time not feel alone in the bubble that I had created for myself.
From that point on, I began to discover the sensibility of photography, but only in a happy context, not looking inside myself. After some time, I meet my wife, who is a television host. She gives me another vision of photography, which is photography of living culture. There, I gain a greater sensibility, and I share experiences with the people from these places, where I sometimes see in some of their feelings that they have the desire to escape and they cannot escape. And I practically have reflected myself in them. That's why it's now easy for me to go to little towns that are practically not even on the Peruvian map. There, I find what I photograph and what I want to convey to the people who can see the work. That has been the process of discovering my profession. I have been working twenty years in photography and seven dedicated to the discovery of living culture in my country. And recently, I've sought out more the Afro-Peruvians.
I always thought of writing as being an inexpensive profession because all you need is a piece of paper, a pen or pencil, perhaps a typewriter or a computer. But to be a photographer or visual artist of any kind, you need very expensive equipment and tools. You need the camera. In the old days, you needed the darkroom and this, that, and [End Page 357] certain lighting. I'm curious about your own background. Do you come from a middle-class background that allowed you this kind of luxury?
I'm going back to the point about my father because he's been an element that's changed my life. When my father left the family for ten years, we didn't have anything to eat. When I went into photography, he had just returned and that coincided with his retirement. With his retirement, there was what you could say a source of money that came into the family. As compensation for the years that he wasn't by our side, he gave me my first camera. It was good for studying, but not for working.
When I had just been in photography a month, I quit. I couldn't find myself in the world of studying. I liked to investigate and discover on the street, to bang myself up in order to learn. It's just at this time that I meet a friend who says that he's going to need a photographer because he had found out that I had studied. And I threw myself at the El Mundo newspaper. That was when I told my father, "You know what? I'm going to work, and I need a camera that is competitive among newspaper photographers." That's when he gave me a Canon D70, with which I start at the web pages that were starting here.
My economic status isn...