TBF Deputy Director Claire Burrows sat down with the 2022 Texas Book Festival Poster Artist Minta Maria in her West Austin studio to talk about her career and this year’s poster image, Adrift No. 3. Read more about the 2022 Festival poster.
Minta Maria is an artist and freelance photographer. She was born in Madrid and raised in San Antonio. She received her BA in Journalism from the University of Texas and MFA in Photography & Related Media from the School of Visual Arts. Over the past ten years of developing her art, Minta has had a variety of exhibitions and worked to build upon the themes of memory, tradition, and the fragility of information.
Lifetime of photography
I started taking photographs in high school and fell in love with photography at the age of 14. I wanted to be a photojournalist and looked up to photojournalists like Susan Meiselas. I moved to New York and got a job at Glamour Magazine, which was the opposite of what I was pursuing, but I learned so much, and quickly after that moved to Latin America and was an intern for UNICEF in Panama. The Director of the regional office there let me pursue a photojournalism project for UNICEF.
When my internship ended, I decided to pursue an MFA in photography. I was curious how an intensive 2-year study could deepen my understanding of photography and how it might unfold into other areas of the medium. I felt like a fish out of water, but it was such a great experience and time to experiment. Post graduation, I took every photography job under the sun while I pursued my art. Once I had my second child, I decided to be a full-time artist.
Roots and Wings
There is a joy and wonder about Texas. In Austin, there is a sense of familiarity. It’s a knowing, the sound of the birds, the warm summer nights, things that I really cherish about the atmosphere having grown up here. And I also love that Austin has a spirit of curiosity and creativity, and meeting and welcoming people from everywhere. For me, this is the roots and wings of Austin and Texas.
I love what perspective brings, and having been away from Texas and returning it was really clear to me what I loved, especially through photography. I really was drawn as a photographer to the Spanish influence in Texas / the Charreada, the West Texas landscape, to all the natural spring-fed swimming holes, the limestone, the great oaks…all these elements that I missed.
The way I make pictures, I feel and prescribe it more towards poetry. As if I’m writing a poem because I feel like there’s a poetic interest in taking pictures. Like this project, Adrift, each form has a story it’s telling, a nonlinear story it’s telling. It leans more into poetry as it expresses many different things at once. Something adrift that’s suspended in the air, perhaps fleeting. There are lots of different elements there that one could read into with the images.
Balmorhea is my favorite picture I’ve taken. There’s something deeper to the image – light and heavy, familiar and mysterious – and space for the viewer to see it however they wish.
The process is that I typically spread out all the papers on this big table, and select what is compelling, then with clear tape, needle and thread, and fishing wire, sew them together. What is so fun and sometimes infuriating is knowing that what I want to see might not reveal itself once it’s up in the air. I use two light stands with a big piece of bamboo taped to the top for height and put the newspaper form right in the middle. I’m lying on the ground, photographing it. I wait for the wind to make the form that I like. Sometimes there’s no wind, sometimes there’s heavy wind…I’m just waiting for the wind. I shot them all on film, there are about 10 pictures per roll of film, which is really lovely for a project like this because I can’t just rapid-shoot pictures. It’s just very different than if I was using a digital camera.
At the beginning of 2020, I started saving newspapers and experimenting, and at some point around the onset of Covid, I started photographing them in this form. We moved to New Zealand, but when I created the images I realized that they were so different than those shot in Texas. The light is different in New Zealand because it is so much closer to the equator, which I didn’t really anticipate, so I had to put the project on pause until we returned to Texas.
A few artists with Texas roots I follow are Christopher Anderson (particularly his family work), and Cruz Ortiz. I also love the work of the 20th-century Texan painter Clara McDonald Williamson. Graciela Iturbide is one of my all-time favorite photographers (since high school!!). She is from Mexico but has had a great presence in Texas, particularly in San Antonio.
Books I’ve loved lately ~
The Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante
Department of Speculation and Weather by Jenny Offill
Especially in the summer, there’s a warmth to the sun. It’s dusty where I shoot these images. It’s so unique.
Read the poster announcement for more information. Posters and T-shirts featuring the Adrift No. 3 art will be available for purchase at the Texas Book Festival on November 5-6, 2022 in Downtown Austin.