PhotoVoice is interviewing established photographers to gain a wider insight into the power of photography and the different approaches to ethical issues. This month, we interviewed award-winning photographer Nelson Morales on his photography and passion for the medium.
Drawing upon his own experiences Nelson’s work focuses mainly on sexual diversity and identity in Mexico.
Where did it all begin and why did you choose photography and not another medium?
Photographs have always attracted me. When I was little, I liked to collect fashion magazines and keep them in my family’s houses so that I could always look through them.
With time, I began reinforcing this idea of extending myself through the image and eventually I started making my own images and I do not regret following my instincts.
Tell us about your approach to photography.
I never studied photography. Everything I have learnt has been self-taught. When I decided to specialize, I chose to tell stories from my personal perspective and my life. It has been a long process – but very comforting in my personal and professional experience.
I focus primarily on sexual diversity, specifically within the muxe community of Oaxaca, of which I’m a part. They identify more as a third gender, not men, not women, but muxes. For a long time, they have struggled to be more visible and to be more valued in society. Although Mexico is a macho country, the muxes have known how to stand up and defend their identity. In Oaxaca, society tolerates and values muxes like nowhere else in Mexico and Latin America.
I focus my gaze from within and from my own experience.
How do you decide if something is worthy of being captured?
I think everything that is captured has validity. The accessibility of photography and the technology we have today make it possible for many moments to be captured.
But I think the most important thing is what the author wants to communicate through the lens.
Is there a single image that defines you as a photographer?
During my years of work I have produced many images. I believe all my photographs rather than certain images outline my career and my personal life.
Can photography bring about positive social change?
Opinions and cultures can be very different. From my personal experience, changing people’s minds is very difficult.
However, I believe that the most positive outcomes of photography are personal reflection and dialogue. This can open minds and help us reach an agreement.
Has charity photography changed since you started?
At first I had a positive perception of charity photography, I thought it was very human. However, with time I realized that not everything is true and there is manipulation made by the photographer or editors. Unfortunately, it is a problem that happens a lot in the world of the image.
What is your approach to the ethics of photography?
To photograph someone and communicate something to the public, I must be honest with myself and believe and trust in my values as a person.
What is your greatest achievement as a photographer?
I have several achievements, but my greatest achievement has been to find myself and develop my own photographic style.
How important do you think equipment is?
It can be important and it cannot be: it depends a lot on the type of photography you do. The most important thing is what you want to communicate. The medium is very subjective.
Do you have any advice for aspiring photographers?
They must have faith, patience and trust in themselves. It’s not easy, but happiness depends on that trust. They should also be open and learn from teachers to help find their own voice and personality as an author. They must also be very tolerant to failure. Being a photographer is not a profession of speed.
Featured image: © Nelson Morales, Lost mermaid, 2016. Salina Cruz Oaxaca