Artist Spotlight: Marcelo Yáñez


Photo by Chris Kale

Thursdays on the blog = Artist Spotlight. This week, we are featuring another artist that I have had the privilege to not only meet, but to shoot with and take some notes from. Marcelo Yáñez, originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico, now lives in Charlotte, NC and is a rising senior in High School. Don’t let his young age fool you, Marcelo has dreams of Manhattan and would like to be an art curator after college.

We have featured his work on the blog before. His “Stranger Project”, is actually the inspiration for our next weekly assignment. Seeing him on the streets, really makes me want to push myself to shoot with confidence.

Please check out more of his work and show him some interweb love at the following links.

Flickr | Instagram


How did you get into instant photography?

As a youngin I had a Taz 600 camera, but I rarely used it for anything past snapshots. When the news that Polaroid was dying came to light to the mainstream in late 2007 I briefly joined the whole scene. I dug out an old OneStep Closeup and shot five or so packs of film, but ditched it around July 2008 when I moved to the mainland US. I was never too fond of my Polaroid work or the plastic box cameras. At this point in my photography I was extremely focused on sharpness and lens quality — trying to show everyone why film and my 1950s German camera was capable of sharper images than their pricey Nikon DSLR. Of course, I would later realize sharpness is really not all — I like sharpness, but it shouldn’t be the end goal, and if an image is composed well then sharpness will not matter much (look at the work by master Cartier-Bresson). Anyhow, I didn’t touch Polaroid for years until 2011 when I experienced a renaissance with instant photography thanks to the great people at the Film Photography Podcast. I had been following Impossible, but I wasn’t ready for the headaches of the early film — which I’ve come to love. I got myself a Automatic Land Camera 250 from the FPP and started shooting. Weeks later I got an SX70 Sonar. Many more cameras followed soon… 

What is your favorite camera used for instant photography?

For me it’s the SX70 Sonar — rugged, quick, and classy in black leather. Although I’ve been shooting mostly with a Model 1 SX70 recently it’s all because I have a pack of TimeZero in the Sonar which I’m taking my time with. 

What instant camera have you not shot with, but would love to try?

Polaroid 600SE — I’m currently on the hunt for one of those beauties.

I’ve always been aching to shoot some of the instant 35mm Polaroid film. (side note, I actually got to do try this with Marcelo. It was a blast!)

What’s your favorite Impossible film or pack film type?

It really depends on the weather and subject for me. If it’s nice and cool outside, the colors of PX70 CP can’t be beat, but I also love the tones and rapid development of PX100 UV+. I was also real fond of the 12/11 batch of PX70 CS.  

How have you incorporated instant film into your regular workflow?

I’m not a professional or aspiring professional photographer, but simply a high school student having fun with an instant camera so I don’t have much to integrate it into. However, this year I’m taking an AP Studio Art class at school, and I’m making Polaroid/instant imagery my portfolio concentration — meaning at least twelve images of the total twenty-four will be shot on some form of instant medium. I’m hoping I can break the prejudice that exists with instant film, and show the potential and variety instant film provides by having manipulations, transparencies, emulsion lifts, etc in my portfolio.
I’ve also found my “stranger project” seeping into my writing and reading habits — i’ve started to write about different encounters around NYC, and Joseph Mitchell has become a hero.

How would you describe your voice or vision with instant photography? (does it differ from your other work?)

As of right now, my only work with a specific vision and direction is the street portraits — I’m trying to document some of the characters of American cities on Impossible film.
With my AP Studio portfolio concentration being Polaroid, I’m just getting into manipulations and really pushing Impossible film to its limits in attempt to create a group of images someone would only be able to do with a Polaroid image.

Any personal projects we should know about?

Anything I’ll be up to will be on my flickr page or twitter. I’m still constructing a website which should be up soon and that will feature my stranger portraits and expanded musings on the images and my travels. In August I start applying to colleges so I’m sure somehow that whole process will find its way into my photography.  

What other photographers do you look up too?

There are a few diseased photographers I admire like Andre Kertesz (especially the Polaroid work), David Wojnarowicz (his Rimbaud pictures), and Cartier-Bresson. I don’t follow much current professional photography, but I’m a big fan of Philip-Lorca diCorcia and Pari Dukovic — both of their portrait work is near flawless. From our own community my mentor has always been Leslie Lazenby ( Her talent and knowledge of instant film and photography is unrivaled. I probably wouldn’t have gone back to instant film if it wasn’t for people like her, Michael Raso, and the rest of the Film Photography Podcast — our whole community owes a lot to them for bringing so many people into the format. I also greatly admire the work of Toby Hancock, Ben Innocent, Andrew Bartram, Andrew Millar, Meredith Wilson and Brian Henry — practically that whole crowd of British Polaroiders blow my mind image after image. I think the first work I ever saw with Impossible that really impacted me was Brian Henry’s. His work is one of a kind! Similar to Brian Henry is Jon Estward , whom I really consider one of the most brilliant photographers ever — not only within this current Polaroid revival realm. Most of his work has always left me speechless.

What advice would you give to someone just getting into instant photography?

Try it all! There is so much out there to experience, and it’s all so fun! The only thing is don’t approach this as simple snapshot taking because the film requires a lot on your part for it to actually work — it’s personal and labor intensive, but completely worth it. Also, if you get into pack film, keep those negatives! Lastly, join the community — get on twitter, flickr, etc. because it’s practically the best part of shooting instant film in today. 

Where does your inspiration come from? Do you seek it out or wait till it finds you?

It all depends, but it mostly just comes from reading, looking at other work, and talking to people. I don’t think I necessarily “seek it out” most of the time, but there have been certain occasions. I have several images that I’ve planned elaborately, but have never executed due to a lack of resources (model, transportation, time). There is one photographer friend of mine who does lots of elaborate conceptual digital work on flickr which I’ve taken inspiration from, and I want to try something similar with Impossible. I’m hoping I can do some this year with some of my classmates at school — hopefully someone will model ;).


  1. Andrew Bartram says:

    Excellent article dude

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