This week on Prodibi let's meet an amazing Photographer from Switzerland: Juventino Mateo Leon. Professional photographer with more than 20 years of experience, from the Analog Photography to the Digital Photography and Post-production, discover his story and experience in this interview!
Discover also his amazing "Beauty Projects", personnal complex series that he started a few years ago in full resolution
A few words about you? Explain me a little bit how did you start photography?
Born in Zurich, son of Spanish immigrants, I have two mentalities in me, the Swiss and the Spanish. Since my school days, I have been very interested in photography. At the age of 16, I started an apprenticeship as a reproduction photographer. I've studied it for 4 years, and at the same time, I was attending the “Berufsschule für Gestaltung Zürich“ (Vocational School of Art and Design Zürich). After those studies came the possibility to develop my skills in the digital picture processing. (the Early Years of the Digital Post-production). Here again, I studied that point for eight years.
At the end of my 20, my mother died. During her stay in the hospital, we talked a lot about dreams and desires in life. From this, I understood, that although she loved us and loved to be a mother and a wife, she died without having fulfilled her great dreams. This was the key moment for me. After her death, I quit my job, my apartment, sold everything and made myself a self-employer. This intimate dream to be a photographer was the most important thing at this moment. I rented a room and built with a friend a studio with Photo Lap.
I started without any client, but with a big dream. The first 2 years were very hard, but everything was exciting.
22 years after, I’m still an independent photographer. Not always easy. But I love it. I definitely took the right decision.
What kind of photography gear do you love to use (camera, lenses, flash…)? If you would have to choose one lens, what would it be ?
In studio I like to have my Hasselblad H3D with the 50mm (a fantastic wide lens), and the 80mm. For close ups, I love the 120mm macro.
For outdoor shoots I love to work with the Canon 5D mark III and the 24mm - 70mm, 2 usm, Zoomlens.
For the light I use Hensel and Broncolor.
Your beauty projects are absolutely crazy good! How do you find such ideas?
- Thank you very much. The ideas come in all sorts of situations. For instance it can come by watching a shop window like in the Puppet series with the Voodoo dolls. I saw a small Voodoo doll in the shop window and decided to make a beauty shoot!
For the Scanned project, I saw a report about the Tokyo subways. There was the overcrowded Tube with people. The faces on the windows fascinated me. I thought it looked like on a copier machine. That was the origin of the idea. I scanned the face of the model and then build together with a normal photo of the model bust. To enhance the scan effect, I have made these displaced lines.
Most ideas of projects are technically complex. It always takes me a lot of time and patience. But it is very fun.
The makeup work seems to be huge but post-production too on that picture. Can you explain us a little bit the construction of such project?
- Regarding this picture. We photographed it 14 years ago, so it was still an analog shooting. The idea was causal. I slept on a bedcover with a pattern on it and after waking up I was going to the bathroom to wash my face and saw the imprint on my face. I decided to make a Beauty Shoot with that idea.
Usually, i work with Arlette Kobler, Hair & Makeup Artist. She is very creative and technically fantastic. Normally, I describe the idea and we discuss how it is technically possible to implement. It is like a ping pong game, the idea going back and forth.
In this case, we made a plaster cast of the model face. We had a plaster negative. Arlette brought St. Galler Laces, a very fine lace made in Switzerland. We then taped the lace in the negative facial form. Weeks later, we made the shot. The mask was re-attached to the model and tightened with bandages. (See the image below).
Print Project (before)
After about half an hour, I took the mask off and photographed it. I had 3 minutes, to do the picture. Those imprints on the face are original pressed. No Photoshop. After two minutes they disappeared slowly.
The same technique, we needed for the Bubble Foil Project.
Other subjects from the Projects series, for example, the Fish Pictures are mainly made with Photoshop.
Bubble Foil Project
See the backstage of this project by following this link: https://magazine.prodibi.com/a/zwddm6g417qy7m
Which other photographers or artists influence you?
The most inspiring photographer for me is Richard Avedon. From the contemporary Photographer, one of my favorites is Nick Knight.
Björk also inpires me with her music and her universe, very visual.
I love artists who don't always do the same and experimenting with different types of art.
What is your philosophy about portrait photography ? What makes a really successful portrait for you ?
My philosophy in portrait photography: It must be as close to the reality as possible. I do not like when people are disguised or not "true". Whether private or at work. At first, I wonder what the picture of the person is supposed to represent. Afterwards, I look at the location and the light.
A successful portrait should work harmoniously. The expression of the person, the light and the general feeling must be harmonious. The viewer should have the feeling to be involved in a conversation in front of the subject.
Is there someone in the world you dream to photography?
Nelson Mandela would have been the highest. An incredible man.
From the living people, I would love to make the portrait of Robert de Niro and the Musician David Sylvian, his music was a constant companion in my youth.
Do you have projects for the future like workshops, personal series?
- Yes, I’m working at moment on a new series, but it has nothing to do with the Projects series. It is a landscapes series and the theme is the 4 elements. I’m a nature lover, the sun, the wind, the rain, the sea, give me a sense of happiness and calmness.
I would like to thanks, Arlette Kobler for the Great Cooperation and the Models : Andrea Kiser and Martina Weber for her Patience.
To see more of Juventino's work:
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