Source: Partial transcript of a video interview with photojournalist Francisco Guerrero at POP WUJ El Libro de los Mayas, Costa Rica – May 2015/January 2016
How long have you been a photographer?
I started taking black & white photos, with an old Kodak box camera, when I was seven years old. I’m sixty-eight now, so that would be sixty-one years. Wow, the time really flies. I got really serious about it when I was a freshman in high school, and I would have been fifteen-years old then. I was a winner in Kodak’s National High School Photography Contest. With my winnings I bought my first [big boy] camera, it was a Yashica-D twin lens reflex, and it’s still in my private collection.
You’ve been shooting professionally for how long?
Well, I founded my company Indochine Photography in 2009, so I guess its been almost seven years now. I pursued it full-time when I retired from the bank in 2011, and left the United States as an expatriate. Shortly after arriving in Yucatan, Mexico, I was asked to become “the” staff photographer for The Yucatan Times newspaper, a fantasy come true. About the same time I became the official photographer for the Kaxil Kiuic Biocultural Reserve and Puuc Jaguar Conservation. I held those jobs for about a year, and I still contribute as a freelance photojournalist. I also sold Fine Art prints through Soho Galleries, Cafe la Boheme and worldwide from my online eCommerce store at Indochine Photography.
So why did you leave those fantasy jobs?
(laughter) Two reasons really. First they became jobs, with schedules and deadlines. The newspaper, with my press credentials, gave me great access to all levels of Mexican society, and opened many doors not available to the average expat. But I got tired of all the grip & grin sessions [handshakes & smiles] with the local politicos and the rich and famous. Secondarily I wanted to travel, and these jobs were holding me in Yucatan. When I retired I wanted to follow my dream of becoming a successful professional photographer, writer and world traveler. To do that I needed freedom of movement. So I resigned (more laughter). They were great opportunities, I made a lot of friends, learned a lot and I will always be grateful to Raul & Sylvia Ponce de Leon, Jose “Pipo” Urioste, James Callaghn and Dr. Markus Telkamp.
What’s your favorite kind of photography?
Well I’ve shot just about everything at one time or another. I think it’s important to get that kind of experience early on. Remember, I made my bones in the days of shooting film, back in prehistoric times. I still shoot a variety of genres, except weddings . . . I’ve seen bride-zillas up close and personal. These days I shoot mostly wildlife, scenics and the mean streets. Scenics sell the best, people like to display beautiful, scenic wall art in their homes and offices; that way they can enjoy my world travels vicariously without ever having to leave the comfort of their homes (laughter). I will still do the occasional commercial assignment, but traveling as much as I do makes it more difficult . . . I’m never in one place for very long.
Tell us about that?
I’m on the road all the time. A week or two here, a month or two there. I’m “location-independent” and that means that I’m technically homeless. But everywhere is home, and everyone is a potential friend. I’m also really into “slo-travel” meaning that I spend more time, in fewer places, seeing less, but experiencing more. It’s a great way to live if you can, and I can. I’ve been at it for four years now and it’s still a hoot. My philosophy on life has been distilled to the following mantra: live simple, live cheap, live free. I no longer live life in the fast lane, like Thoreau said: ‘The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation’. For me everyday is like turning a new page in a great book. I appreciate that I’m pretty damn lucky, but I also appreciate the fact that I’ve worked pretty damn hard for it.
Back to photography for a minute, what kind of equipment do you carry around with you?
These days I’m a Canon shooter, in the old days I was a Nikon, Leica and Rolleiflex guy. In 2009, when I switched from film to digital, Canon had the best stuff around, especially in lens selection. In the last few years Nikon has surpassed Canon with improved sensor sensitivity in their high-end cameras, but Canon still has the advantage with lenses I think. I have to travel light these days, everything has to fit in a small backpack and duffel. So my gear includes: a Canon EOS 5D Mark II full-frame (22 MP) camera body and a EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM zoom lens, a EF 70-200mm f/4L USM zoom telephoto lens and finally a EF 400mm f/5.6L USM super telephoto lens. My backup shooter is a small, pocket-size Canon PowerShot G15. I have some miscellaneous gear, but that’s my basic kit.
Do you travel with a computer?
Of course, doesn’t everyone? I have a 13-inch Apple MacBook Pro that I take everywhere. The only additional photography software I have is Adobe Photoshop Elements 11 (with Adobe Camera RAW) and Photomatix. That pretty well completes my photography requirements.
So where have you traveled so far, and what are your future plans?
For the past four years its been Latin America. Prior to that my travels were pretty much confined to the United States, Canada and Asia. Golly, lets see if I can remember the list. I started in Mexico and then headed south to: Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and now Peru. Bolivia, Chile and Argentina will complete the Latin American portion of my global adventure. After South America it’s back to Asia.
Any bucket-list destinations checked off yet?
Absolutely. Cuba, the Amazon and Galapagos, probably in that order. I’m high in the Andes right now (not high like smoking dope high, but altitude high . . . laughter). Huaraz is at 10,000 feet, and I’ve been as high as 12,000 feet in the Cordillera Blanca, and I still have Cusco and Machu Picchu to look forward to. Man, there is still so much more to see in this old world of ours.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us today, I have so many more questions, but sadly we’ve run out of time. Take care and stay safe in your travels.
Absolutely. And you’re very welcome, or as we say down here: mi gusto.