Ivan Gabaldon is a man to spend time with. A fascinating storyteller, Ivan is eloquent, honest and funny, and 20 minutes is like one sip from a bottle of your best anejo – it leaves you wanting more.
You’re originally from Venezuela and I know you’ve lived in many places. Which is one of your favorites, and why?
New York City, for all the reasons people love, or used to love, as I know it’s changed. I lived there in the early 90s and I was taking film classes and of course, taking pictures. I always had the camera with me and NYC, particularly the subway where I spent a lot of my time, was like a moving museum of people and stories.
Like most photographers over 30, you started out using film, then moved to digital. Is there something about film that you miss?
Yes. This really became obvious to me in 2008 when I was commissioned by a magazine in Mexico City to do a photo editorial. It gave me the chance to grab my Nikon film cameras and shoot film again. Working with film is so definite, so intentional, so precise, and it changes how you look at things.
How did you get a start as a photographer?
I set up my first lab when I was 15 and learned by trial and error. Capturing reality through a poetic eye started out as documenting the urban landscape where I lived and eventually, photography became a vehicle for my life.
What led you to bird photography?
All credit goes to the Yucatan Peninsula. I had not done nature photography until I moved to the Riviera Maya. One day a Ferruginous Pygmy-owl came and perched by the balcony where I sat. It waited for me while I got my camera and photographed it. Once I saw that image on my computer, I was hooked. I started to teach myself everything about bird photography, which was a lot, but the biggest lesson was that you are at the mercy of nature. You have to wait for what it gives you.
Interesting contrast to your ‘street’ photography…
I love the peacefulness of nature photography but Merida has given me the inspiration to do a new body of work that I’m excited about. It’s based on what the local culture calls ‘acechando’, which literally means ‘to spy on’. In the Yucatan they use the expression to describe looking through windows into houses and I’ll be exploring this concept over the coming months. In my case, I’ll be looking out.
In your career as an artist have you had a mentor, or a muse?
I’m still looking for a mentor…that would be good to have (laughs). As far as having a muse? Art is my muse, ‘life’ is my muse, and light! Light is definitely my muse.
You used to work as a DJ. What do you listen to when you work?
Everything, I love all kinds of music. When I had my darkroom I would work from nine at night until six in the morning and I would play music through the night.
Where do you get your inspiration?
One of my earliest inspirations was the American writer Henry Miller. He was always telling the story of how he had countless ‘dead end jobs’ while he worked towards his goal of becoming a real writer. Some of those odd things I’ve done have been a way to make money yes, but they have also been part of the process to get to where I am today.
You’re new to the Artist Studio Tour this year. What are you looking forward to?
My wife and I were surrounded by nature in the Riviera Maya and one of the reasons we moved to Merida was because we wanted to be surrounded by people again. I’m looking forward to meeting other artists as well as all the people who will be visiting my studio. I haven’t had an outlet for some of the new photography I’ve been doing, so the Tour is a great opportunity for me and I’m really looking forward to it.
Meet Ivan and 23 other artists on the Merida Artist Studio Tour taking place Saturday, February 21, 2015 from 10 am to 3 pm.
For more on Ivan's adventures, go to his blog.