Interview Series: Mercedes Esquivel

Sometimes mothers hand down vintage clothes or jewelry, but in Mercedes Esquivel‘s case, she handed down a camera. As soon as this desert soul began photographing her surroundings, including her lovers, she in turn fell in love with photography. I can’t think of anything more romantic. Her photographs have a very natural and feminine quality. I would describe them in one word as “honest.” Shooting with this Hispanic and Native American beauty at an oasis of a place in Silverlake was literally a Sunday daydream. 



LF: You’re only 22. When did you first discover your passion for photography?

ME: I first took interest in photography at 15 when I received a camera from my mom. At the time I was interested in documentary photography so the first couple of years I took pictures of skaters or people on the street, it really helped to develop my camera knowledge without any formal teaching.


LF: Who is the first person you ever shot?

ME: Alison, who was a close friend of mine at the time. She was my first muse and you can find photos of her deep in the flickr and tumblr archives.


LF: You aren’t afraid to bare it all in your self portraits. Do you think that gives your female subjects a sense of comfort when shooting in intimate settings?

ME: I hope so! I think to be able to shoot someone nude you have to relate to them too. It’s a really vulnerable thing to do.


LF: You also take very intimate shots of men. What’s the biggest difference between shooting a nude man versus a nude woman?

ME: Photographing men in general is so much more different for me because the men in my photos were probably my lovers at one point or another. I don’t think when I am taking their photo, it is such a quick moment, a second to preserve memory. Taking photos of woman is sometimes a collaborative thing and the shots are premeditated to create another world or to tell a story.


LF: You live in Victorville, just north of Joshua Tree. How has the desert shaped your work?

ME: I love the desert more than most places, I was raised there for most of my life but it became a disadvantage as an aspiring photographer because everything I needed to be successful felt so far away such as people to photograph, jobs, etc. I took a break from photography a year ago because I got bored of always taking photos in that landscape. Now I’m away from home a lot, sometimes days at a time, so it’s easy to feel inspired to take photos when I go back.


LF: What camera(s) are you using?

ME: Everyone asks me but mine are nothing special. I strictly shoot 35mm film with a Canon tfp or ae-1. I also have some point & shoots for the wild, spontaneous moments in my life.


LF: You are friends with photographer Brigette Bloom and have experimented with her method of soaking film in urine. Any other mediums you’ve tried or thinking about trying?

ME: I love Brigette! I’ve never tried any other methods besides her’s though. I’m not so good at experimental photography and I’ve gone in a different direction with my work since then.


LF: Do you have any advice for young photographers starting out like yourself?

ME: Never be afraid to reach out and ask for things. It is an overwhelming industry, there are many people doing exactly what you are doing, so you have to take the initiative if you want something to happen for yourself.


LF: How FAST do you live?

ME: Sometimes very fast, sometimes calm and slow. I’m a versatile little animal!

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