Can you tell us about yourself and your photographic work?
My name is Luis Luján, I am 30 years old and I am a Mexican photographer. I am part of the founding team of a nonprofit organization, Uno de Siete Migrando (from Spanish “One out of Seven Migrating”), a name referring to the fact that one out of seven people in the world is migrating (as of 2012). This organization is dedicated to promote and protect human rights of immigrant people, based in my hometown, Chihuahua. My work in this NGO and the shelter for immigrants it runs, Casa del Migrante de Chihuahua (“Home of the Immigrant of Chihuahua”) has inspired my documentary work on this area.
My main focus as a documentary photographer is to create awareness on social issues such as migration and to make visible the experience of Mexican and Central American migrants during their temporary stay in my hometown and migrant shelters I have visited across Mexico. I look for photographs that represent their resilient spirit facing the uncertainty and dangers of their journey, and the solidarity of anonymous people helping them.
I hold a Master's degree on Environmental Science received in Saudi Arabia, education that has influenced my interest in sustainability and migration on a global scale. I am also the founder of “Mejores Fotos”, a photography school where I have instructed more than 900 people in my hometown.
Do you have any formal training in photography?
At first I was mostly self taught in photography as I considered it just a hobby, taking advantage of all free available resources I could get on the internet.
As I progressed in my practice I started investing into workshops mostly on documentary photography of photographers I admire such as Eniac Martinez and Francisco Mata Rosas, among others. From these teachers I got personalized feedback and guidance that I could not get from any other source.
In the past years I have been honored and fortunate enough to get scholarships to learn from photographers I admire, such as war photographer Ron Haviv, and more recently, the Friends of Mary Ellen Mark Scholarship to learn from Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb. From this experience I have gotten much more than anything I could expect out of a formal education: clarifying my vision in photography.
I believe that not everyone has to have formal training in photography to do interesting and meaningful work. I feel as though being overly academic can place too much importance on the medium and not the end. I think that, for some of us doing documentary photography, having an alternative field of study (i.e. science) gives us a broader perspective on what to express through our camera.
Can you share with us your experience during the workshop with Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb in Oaxaca?
It was the most enriching experience in my nine years studying photography. I never visualized myself learning from someone I have admired for so many years.
What surprised me the most about this workshop is how clearly it delivered on its promise of guiding me in the development of my own personal vision in photography. I came to this experience feeling disoriented about how to take my photography to the next level without compromising on authenticity, and I left with a sense of clarity about what unique value my work can bring and how to direct it from the initial portfolio review down to the daily editing.
Having both Rebecca and Alex bring different perspectives that complement perfectly was key to the success of the workshop. All week long they made time to hear our questions and guide us, while putting the nurture of our own personal vision as a priority. Seeing closely how Rebecca and Alex follow their intuition and the wisdom that can only come from years of experience was career-changing for me.
Ultimately, this experience opened my eyes to new subtleties in expressing through photography and editing; I was left with the excitement I once felt as a beginner and, at the same time, thrilled about the big challenges I will face to develop meaningful work in the years to come.
What would you say to young Mexican photographers thinking of applying for the scholarship?
If you think you have something important to share about Mexico with the world through photography, please apply. This can be a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from real masters of their craft. Unfortunately, education at this level is rarely accesible for young photographers here in Mexico. Both Alex and Rebecca want to leave a positive legacy in our country and will support you extraordinarily during the workshop. Apply with your most authentic work, they will acknowledge it and support it. You have nothing to lose, and a new way of seeing the world to discover!
In addition to receiving a full scholarship to study with Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb during their workshop in Oaxaca, Mexico in 2018, Luis will also have the opportunity to have his ongoing project about immigration reviewed by Alex and Rebecca periodically over the coming years as it develops.
Learn more about the Friends of Mary Ellen Mark Scholarship here.
All images © Luis Lujan