5 Questions: Alejandro Cartagena

Five questions to SFMOMA artists, staff, or guests. Alejandro Cartagena is a photographer from Monterrey, Mexico. His work is on view in the Photography in Mexico exhibition through July 8. This Friday he speaks live on the web for Rooftop TV. Blue Bottle Coffee also created a flight of ice cream inspired by Cartagena’s photography. Yum!

Do you collect anything?

I collect photography books. I have  maybe 200–250. My wife is not too happy about it,  but we have fun looking at them, and sometimes she gets into the hype of looking at photography books. That’s the only thing I collect.

If you could spend an afternoon with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?

I would have to say my wife. She is my best friend. I really enjoy having time with her. Maybe the answer would be I would spend time with her in some place particularly. We really like L.A. So, in L.A. with my wife.

If you weren’t a photographer, what would your gig be?

I’ve had several gigs before. I used to be a skater, then I worked as a hotel manager, and I also worked as a chef. What other thing would I do now? I would be a book publisher. I think that’s something that’s really exciting. Still in photography, ’cause I’m really excited about people when they’re excited about their own work, and I just love to get in contact with that emotion and that rawness of someone believing so much in something they’re doing. So, either a publisher or a promoter of young talent.

Have you ever run out of money?

Many times, yes. There was a moment … very personal. I got kicked out of my house and I was living with a girl, and we didn’t have a place to stay. We roamed the city until a friend of ours let us stay at the garage. That was kind of hard. That was 2002, 2003, more or less. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. It’s hard to feel that you don’t belong anywhere.

What’s your favorite tool?

Maybe it’s too obvious, but the camera. I think the thing that I enjoy the most of photography is actually having the camera and being out there, finding the things that I’m looking at in my mind and having that opportunity with the camera to take the picture of that.




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