What is a typical work day/week like for you? I get up pretty early–around six in the morning–pretty much everyday. I’m definitely a morning-and-night person and not a big sleeper. I’m an art director at Goodby Silverstein (an ad agency in San Francisco) and I usually don’t get home from work until after 8:00. My job keeps me pretty busy, but the day to day stuff varies. Sometimes we spend quite a few days at the concepting stage, and other days are spent working on the minutia involved in bringing a project to life. My weekends I try to keep just for me and they’re usually spent doing personal projects, which is most of the stuff you see on my flickr stream.
Film or Digital? It depends on the job. I enjoy shooting both. I shoot with a Digital SLR (Canon 5D) for all work that involves motion. Throwing things or having someone jumping around requires shooting a lot of frames. The ability to get instant feedback is crucial for tweaking lights, experimenting with framing etc. For most of the portrait work I do, I’ll shoot film. I have an old Hasselblad, medium format camera. The Hasselblad is a little tank and makes a very loud thumping noise when you press the shutter. I love it. Focusing, metering and winding the film is all done manually so it slows you down but it really forces you to think about every frame.
The majority of your work focuses on a figure and their environment. Does the environment reflect upon that person’s personality in any sort of way? No, most of the time photos are inspired by images from art, movies, TV, magazines and advertising. I have a notebook filled with descriptions of possible images, things that i would like to try at some point. A specific lighting set up or scenario. Then when I find someone to shoot, i will refer back to my notes and go from there.
Do you know your subjects fairly well before photographing them? Some of them. I actually prefer to shoot people I don’t know because to me it’s easier to make them look whatever way I want to without having any pre-conceived idea of who they are.
What’s your master plan for 2007? I am trying to bring my personal work and professional work closer together this year. I also have been collaborating with two close friends, Jimmy Soat and Chris Ro- both of them designers. There is a fair amount of work we’ve accumulated over the last months and we are in the process of figuring out how to release it in the months to come.
Have you taken any of your ideas to video yet and if so do you have any examples? I haven’t yet. I am definitely interested but for the moment photography is a medium I am still exploring.
For images like Soat Collab (expsoat01/may18,2006), how many takes are involved to get what you want? Hundreds, in the case of the image you are referring, we knew we wanted some sort particles flying around but didn’t really have the final image too defined in our mind. With some of the collaboration work the process is quite organic, it is about getting out there and playing around with things, lighting, movement etc. Trying things out, succeeding at some, failing at others and having fun during the process.
What are your cat’s names? What do they eat? Cassius and Zoe, only cat food, which they proceed to puke out on the carpet on a regular basis.
What annoys you? I don’t think I can be objective about this so I asked Alex, who is my office mate to list things that I get annoyed by and these are it: His cats. Being idle/bored. That song “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley. People who aren’t organized. People who take him too seriously and don’t get that he’s just being a smart ass. People who nag.
Rock or Country? Neither. Minimal techno, the slow dark ambient stuff. And occasionally the loud noisy stuff. It drives everyone around me nuts…
Have you ever shopped for reptiles? Not to keep as a pet, but I tried snake soup once.
About Jose Luis Martinez
Born in Mexico City 29 (as of 2007) years ago. Lives in San Francisco California. Earns a living as an Art Director in advertising. Shoots medium format and digital. Is married and has two cats. Enjoys Minimal Techno.