A conversation between landscape and humans: Artist Talk by photographer Sebastian Mejia, March 25
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Thursday, March 18th, 2021
Sebastian Mejia’s love of photography, and his photographic eye, have been strong since before his teen years in Colombia, even before his father gifted him his first camera: a 1980s Canon A-1 35mm reflex.
Once Mejia became a student at School of Visual Arts in New York City, his artistic insight became apparent to his professors there, too.
One of them was Eric Weeks, now Chair of PCA&D’s Photography & Video Department. “Although Sebastian was only a sophomore,” Weeks says of his Photo Critique class with Mejia, “he pushed our critiques into very sophisticated intellectual realms, and was way beyond his level of education. He is always interested in ideas and complex concepts.”
Mejia now is a professor living in Santiago de Chile, where he says he focuses his practice on “the concept of ‘landscape’ with a contemporary stance.” His eye catches the shapes of the natural world as they rest within cityscapes, neighborhoods, and other signs of human presence. He has exhibited his work in the Photographer’s Gallery in London, Fondation Cartier in Paris, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Chile among others.
“A great gift that comes from teaching is that sometimes a teacher learns from the student,” Weeks says of Mejia. Mejia, in turn, will visit the PCA&D campus virtually on March 25 for a 10 am online Artist Talk open to the College community, and for critiques with the Photography & Video seniors.
Much of your work on your website seems to examine that interplay between nature caught in the manmade world. What is it about that interaction that captures your interest, opposed to “just” a landscape or “just” a city view?
SM: My goal is to address the concept of “landscape” with a contemporary stance. That means that I should first recognize the tradition of the genre, more concerned with representing the natural world, then try to situate it to our present day, more related to urban life on a global scale. By combining these two elements I aim to create a sort of portrait of local South American cities that grow exponentially every year, but inevitably remain rooted in another time scale, more related to pre-industrial times.
Quasi Oasis | Simon Bolivar | Sebastian Mejia
Quasi Oasis | Las Condes | Sebastian Mejia
Quasi Oasis | Conquistadores | Sebastian Mejia
Quasi Oasis | Providencia | Sebastian Mejia
Papaya | Colombia | Sebastian Mejia
Playa | Colombia | Sebastian Mejia
Nalca | Chiloé | Sebastian Mejia
Palmera | Santiago Patronato | Sebastian Mejia
You and Professor Eric Weeks (PCA&D Photography & Video Chair) are in an Instagram “conversation” at @thelatitudeandlongitudeproject. Can you explain how that started, and how it works?
SM: Eric was my teacher back in 2004, one of the best classes I have ever attended. It was three hours of photo critique that led to very interesting conversations. After I graduated in 2007 and went back to Chile we remained in contact, exchanging emails sometimes once a year, but always in touch. After 10 years I returned to visit NYC and was invited to Eric’s class, I believe it was after that meeting that we decided to create @thelatitudeandlongitudeproject as a way to extend our dialogue through images. There is no specific agenda to our conversations, but differences and similarities from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere are always present.
What was your first camera, and what do you most often use to shoot now?
SM: My first camera was a Canon A-1, a 35mm reflex from the ’80s. A very solid tool, wish I still had it.
It was a present from my father in 1998, and I used it until around 2005. From that camera, I moved on to a medium format Mamiya 7II, and then a 4×5 field camera. Those are my two main tools that I use for my personal work that is still done all on film. For my commercial work, I use a Canon 5D, a 35mm digital reflex that reminds me of my first camera. It is extremely versatile, ideal for architectural photography.