Interview Series: Mario Peña

Mario Peña‘s stylized flirtatious fashion images are getting noticed, especially his unique, delicate use of effects and color shifts. A self-taught photographer, Mario dabbled in different techniques until he arrived at his distinct style, doing test shots with models in Los Angeles. Much of his photographic vision comes from his life experiences – love, heartbreak, reality – and he describes photography as his journey.

With a strong focus on eyes and a raw/organic capture of his models, his images are striking. He got a nod on the visionary Ben Trovato blog, and we hope he continues to surprise us with his creativity. We had a chance to sit down with Mario, and he opened up about life, love and beautiful women. Have a look:

Q&A

LF: First, let’s start out with the subject of women. What do you see in the female figure that inspires you?

MP: Women… they are just beautiful. It’s not really the female figure, is more the over view of their role in life. If you take a look at my photos they show the most basic beauty. I focus a lot on the eyes. I almost never show something too sexy, too much skin. I don’t want to distract people from their eyes. Let me share with you something I wrote to myself, because I am changing my photography philosophy and vision and needed to write how I have to see my subject ( women ) now, “My work is not about sex, it’s s not about selling the woman, it’s about presenting the woman as a beautiful part of our lives. As our mother, our sister, our lover, to show how much happiness a woman brings, by her grace, her behavior, her charm. To show a memorable moment, photos of the girl as if her love life took the photo, completely memorable.”

LF: You used interesting effects in your images… without totally giving away your secrets, can you talk about how these effects have shaped your work?

MP: I used to think there was nothing wrong with giving away secrets, but ever since I read the quote of Albert Einstein “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources,” oh oh, I wont give them away. The reason why I use effects is not because it’s cool, it’s not because I wanted to be different, it’s because when I was thinking about how I want to express myself through photography, I wanted to do something that touches people in an emotional level. So I thought about details like using big apertures to have many things blurry, just like the human eye sees, or using reflections, visual textures, flare, colors that you can relate to, like something you felt before to get that emotional level and dreamy feeling.

LF: Your decision to add effects takes the focus away from the environment and places it on the model. Why is this important?

MP: It’s because I like to narrate directly from the subject, the location is just a place where we can work comfortably, and have good light available. In the near future, I will start working in environments where we can feel more comfortable and behave naturally, so in these situations, the environment will take more important role.

LF: Speaking of the environment, you photograph your models in both constructed and natural locations. How to you choose what environment best fits your vision?

MP: I like to be as versatile as possible, you never know what God will give you everyday, so if things are not working outside, I’ll work inside. I always have to find a way to clearly respect my vision. So to be completely honest, sometimes I choose a location depending on what I have access to, if a park works, or a room, or a studio. I choose mostly location, because the models are such a free spirit and have a beautiful body language let’s go out and move! But sometimes it is lovely to work inside, cozy and intimate.

LF: We like your quote “I first live and then photograph.” How does your life translate to your pictures?

MP: It’s actually a bit literal, a lot of the ideas I have depend on my life. Sometimes if my life gets a bit dark in love, my ideas will be like that, a dark romance, tainted love. Or maybe if I feel like I’m in bloom, growing, my ideas will involve flowers. Or if I am going through a more sensual period of my life,  that’s what I will photograph.  After all, my photos are somehow a self portrait.

I am not my job, photography is not my work, it’s my journey. A few days ago I just realized I was not taking photos that involved my personal experiences and that I was doing the same images over again, so the solution was easy… just live! That’s exactly what I did, I stopped working so hard at my photography for a few months, to escape, to live, to fall in love, to get my heart broken three times, to get lost and found, to sleep a couple of nights on the street, to kiss the earth, and I came back with a more honest version of me.

I will give you a few keywords I have in mind for my future photos:  Iconic, Immortal, Transformation, Poetic, Raw, Romantic, Rock and Roll, Bright, Vivid Colors, Bold Shapes, Pure and Minimalist, Fresh Air, Alive, Powerful, Memorable, Beautiful, Grace, Sensual, Silly, Sweet.

LF: There is a raw feeling to your work, can you talk about your ability to merge this with beauty?

MP: I like raw because that’s the perception I have of beauty. I like girls as they come, looking natural. To me that’s romantic, beautiful, and it means that they are healthy, they smile a lot. I don’t want to visually modify their natural proportions. Besides when the models look raw, they appear as if they are posing for someone who knows them very well, they don’t need to impress.

LF: You use an interesting, almost vintage looking color palette. How have you come to these color decisions through your process?

MP: The almost vintage look gives to my photos a timeless quality. I want my photographs to look like memories, the kind of photos that you like to keep for you.

LF: Are you self-taught?

MP: Yes, I did try to go to school, in my country we don’t have a career in photography, and when I moved to USA, art school was way to expensive,  so I just decided to learn as much as possible by my own.

LF: Why photography?

MP: It’s the only medium that I feel fits me well, where I have patience. And also, I love to create things, but I am terrible with other technique, so I basically just create everything to be photographed. And part of my vision is to touch people, and photography has basic human level that people can relate to. Ironically I am just not that interested in art, but with my photos, as soon as I am done with one, I get excited to start the next one.

LF: Where do you see yourself in five years?

MP: A few days ago I would say, in NY having a stable life, a good balance in my personal and professional life, but now, I have just no idea. Life has been so unpredictable lately. But I will like to see myself younger in mind and spirit, with more energy, and pushing myself to live more, perhaps with my lone wolf of the opposite sex.

LF: How FAST do you live?

MP: Living is being open to the unknown, waking up and remembering that every day is a gift.

LF: Art Talk: What inspires you? Favorite art or work?

MP: I don’t really have many favorite things. I change all the time, I am kind of always looking for the next thing that will hit me. What inspires me is mostly music and films, sometimes just a few seconds of each. Right now I am listening to “Freedom” by Rage Against The Machine, and the first second inspires me a lot, is just like PUM! Or I just saw the movie “Into the Wild”. It was just beautiful. I collect inspiration from everything: a flare,  a smile, a sound, a quote, a kiss, but it’s music and films that unleash my creativity.

LF: Sex Talk: What gets you off? Literally or figuratively?

MP: I like to marinate my meat at least 24 hours before, so when it’s time to eat, I expect something intense, some attitude. I love a confident girl who goes for what she wants, who knows I am giving her pleasure, not just by the physical contact in the moment, but also by the desire I feel she feels for me.

LF: Travel Talk: Favorite destination or travel stories (besides this epic journey) that you want to share?

MP: I would like to go to Paris soon, and once I went to Sweden because I fell in love with a girl there, it was a beautiful trip. And definitely is not the last trip I will make for love.


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