You know how sometimes you listen to a song and you feel like it’s about you?
That’s how I felt the first time I went to a conference given by Tino Soriano. OK, so it wasn’t EXACTLY about me or my life (his is much more exciting), but he was presenting his recently published book called ‘Los Secretos de la Fotografía de Viajes’ (the secrets of travel photography) in which he shared countless personal experiences and talked about travel with so much emotion that he DID put into words what I feel each and every time I embark on a new adventure.
Kind, down-to-earth and with a great sense of humour, Tino Soriano has worked for National Geographic for over 20 years, has been awarded countless awards though out his career, published several books, travelled around the world twice over and is minister of communications of the Agonlin region in Benin (true story!).
With all this said, it is with great pleasure that I share today the interview with this great master of photography.
Tino Soriano with Sa Majesté Yeto Kandji of Agonlin
Christelle Enquist: Let’s start with something easy: What does photography mean to you?
Tino Soriano: It’s a way of life that allows me to share experiences and forces me to continually be on the move and reinvent myself from time to time.
CE : A trip to Nepal inspired us to do what we do, and if I’m not mistaken, it’s also a country that played a role in your beginnings as a photographer. Tell us a little about it.
Tino Soriano : Influenced by the album “Tintin in Tibet” by the great Hergé and knowing that most of the vignettes were recreated from photographs of Nepal, I decided to visit the country when I was just 22 years old with only the knowledge of French to defend myself.
My story was published in various media and that’s where everything started.
At that point I thought to myself: if I can survive a trip to India and Nepal with rudimentary English, then I can also survive being a photojournalist …
CH: Do you have a mantra?
Tino Soriano: Nike copied me, hahaha, “Just do it!”
CH: Being suggestive or being descriptive…which do you prefer when photographing and why?
Tino Soriano: Being suggestive, without a doubt. To describe is to take away the spectators use of imagination. Stories should be formed in their minds and our job is to provide them with the keys to do so.
CH: You have just published a book that has taken you 25 years to write titled: Ayúdame a mirar: la biblia del reportaje gráfico’ (Help me see: the photo reportage bible): How do you learn to see?
Tino Soriano: Taking fewer photos and focusing on what is really relevant. A photo, in documentary photography, should tell a story, but the photographer should know what he wants to explain and know how to choose amongst the vortex of superfluous stimuli.
CH: A ‘bible’ like this one deserves to be read by as many people as possible. Do you plan on translating it into other languages?
Tino Soriano: It depends on my editor, Photoclub Anaya. I imagine they will go to the Frankfurt Fair and they will offer it to someone. However, it is a book that is very much conceived for the Spanish market. Especially with regards to legislation. However, this chapter could be adapted in accordance with the legislation of other countries: What can be photographed and what cannot be photographed? That is the question!
CH: Do you think that aside from students and beginners, photographers should try to educate the consumer? If so, how do you think it should be done?
Tino Soriano: The fact that methodologies and subjects of the seventeenth century are still being used today says a lot about the criteria that governs basic education.
The image, like grammar, or rather, as the universal grammar that it is, should be a compulsory subject in basic education. Knowing how to use it, both for its contents and to understand its function on social media, both advantages and disadvantages, is missing in today’s largely outdated syllabus.
CH: What is the best advice you have been given?
Tino Soriano: With regards to photography it was José Azel who gave it to me. He said: “Focus on taking pictures and leave almost everything else to the professionals. Do not try to do everything yourself because your source of income is actually the images you take.” Or in other words: “A Jack of all trades is a master of none.”
With regards to life, I tried to imagine a fun one and then put it into practice, advice that I believe I received from Txema Salvans.
CH: Who, outside of the photographic world, has inspired you the most and why?
Tino Soriano: Perhaps Mark Twain. He wrote, traveled and had a sense of humor. I think he was onto something good.
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