Five hours before his flight back to Jakarta was set to take off, Leandro Quintero sat with Jasmine Kusuma to chat a little bit about feelings as well as his first and most enduring love.
What was your first encounter with photography?
As a teenager my mother tried to instill a reading habit in me. She introduced me to science fiction novels — Philip K. Dick and the like — which were far too complex. Then she got me into the Surrealist Movement which was how I discovered visual art through prose and poetry. Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray, Henri Cartier-Bresson. I went crazy.
I know that you started as a street style photographer. How did that begin?
I enrolled myself in a photography course in Bueno Aires. I had a good teacher, an Argentinian photojournalist named Jorge Monaco.
Your work gives off a very specific kind of energy. What attracts you to capture something?
I grew up in a time before digital cameras and I wanted to capture moments when I am most myself. All my images are rooted in energy that pierces the surface of what they seem. For me, it’s all about the dynamism of the subjects around me at any given time. A synergy of sorts. I want to be as honest as possible; the real value of photography for me is to see things as they are.
You’ve been a fixture in the fashion industry but you didn’t begin as a fashion photographer. Do you think your background manifests itself within your fashion oeuvre?
I come back to fashion from time to time, but differently. I do fashion but I want to do it in a way that is less traditional. Almost anti-fashion. More submerged in the present. I feel comfortable doing something that is layered: they can be more documentary, sometimes more aesthetic, a little raw. I like to move freely between different languages.
What’s your way of shooting?
I love to go out to the streets. When there’s a nice understanding between everyone you work with. I truly enjoy being behind the camera and there is always a challenge. When I do pictures, I love going to people’s houses and not knowing what the space looks like. The spontaneity of it all. My friend Martin doesn’t believe that I never scout for locations. I go by instinct.
Since you don’t really plan the images you shoot beforehand, does your ever-changing mood effect the work that you do?
Obviously. As a human being, everyday you carry yourself differently. Some days you sleep better and react to various things in different ways. Life’s a rollercoaster. It’s like listening to a DJ plays: some days it’s sublime, other days the music could fall a bit flat. It’s a state of mind.
You romanticise a lot of subjects in your work. Are you a sentimental person?
I’m super sentimental, extremely nostalgic and very melancholic. Regardless of the scope of work that I do, I treat every single project equally every time. I put my heart, brain and soul to every shoot. If I do fashion I gravitate more towards the sexual, but never vulgar. I never do nudes. Subtle sexualisation. You can sexualise and create a fantasy without it being too blatant.
You took the plunge and relocated from Berlin to Ubud. What was that like?
I was born in a big metropolis and I’ve traversed all major capitals in Continental Europe. I’m a guy who likes excess information, to be connected to the beat of culture. Living in Ubud was the first time I was content with the simplest things in life: awaking to a cacophony of crickets and birds, reading and contemplating nature. It sounds cliché but I never would have thought that that was possible. It all boils down to one philosophical question: what do you need to be happy? Materialism doesn’t make you happy. At least for me.
You moved to Jakarta from Ubud after a breakup. Was it an escape? Does love play a part in your creative process?
Most of my work has always been based in Jakarta since I first moved to Indonesia. I went there not as an escape as much as it was about going back and reconnecting to my most constant love: photography. It was the only thing that could drag me out of such a painful process. When you go through a rough time, particularly for creatives, you go out and work. Channel your grief somewhere, so that’s what I did. I left to Jakarta to focus on shooting and organising exhibitions. I’m doing the one single thing I love most in life. There’s no greater paramour in my life than taking pictures.
What is your favourite place in Bali?
Hati Padi Cottages in Ubud. My happy place since there is nothing around. Just nature, very peaceful. My place in the world.
You’re not into assigning meaning to material things, but what’s the one thing you own that you hold dear?
I got a Yashica-MAT 124G from my dad when I was 18. It’s my oldest camera, and the only one I would never sell. He’s not big on materialistic things but it was the one time he bought and handed me something, saying that he knew I would make good use of it.
Leandro Quintero Written by Jasmine Kusuma Photos by Leandro Quintero Leandro Quintero portrait by Nadia Razak