Sasha Asensio is an anthropological photographer based in Barcelona who photographs the unseen and overlooked: the homeless, the scarred and disfigured, fascinating people who live “unorthodox” lives.
I’ve long been inspired by Sasha’s real and gritty work and how he looks at Barcelona as it really is. He pulls back the sugar coated curtain and reveals what most people choose not to acknowledge.
I recently had the fortune to ask him a few questions about his photography and find out what and how he goes about it.
Read on to find out more about his fascinating perspective of Barcelona’s less-photographed subjects.
All photos courtesy of (and owned by) Sasha Asensio
Ben: How did you get into photography?
Sasha: Photography has always interested me and I have practiced it since I was a child. I moved to El Raval because I was attracted by its diversity. It’s not the same to visit a place than to live in it. Living in it gives you a more direct and in-depth knowledge. It’s perfect for me.
Ben: I really respect and appreciate the way you photograph your subjects. There is clearly a lot of mutual respect. How would you describe your work and how did you begin? How do you feel about your artistic output?
Sasha: Respect, affection and admiration are three words that can be used to identify or understand my work.
Ben: What camera/s and lenses do you use to create your work, and why?
Sasha: I use everything that allows me to take a photo. From a mobile to a medium format camera. I have no borders. But the usual is an APS-C mirrorless camera (the Fujifilm X-Pro 3) with two fixed prime lenses: 23mm and 50mm. That is, a portrait lens and a wider lens. I need to go light with the gear, since I never leave home without my camera. The weight, technology and volume must be acceptable for daily use. Any moment can be interesting. A light setup opens more doors, you take more photos because you always carry it with you.
Ben: How do you get so close to your subjects? Are they friends of yours or do you have a way of approaching strangers? Sometimes your subjects expose parts of their bodies, which often tell stories about their lives. How do you manage to make this happen?
Sasha: I have a very outgoing character and a facility to connect with people directly and bluntly. Many times my portraits show parts of the body – they’re a journey through a person’s past and present. The body is a map, it says a lot about a person.
Ben: I primarily know you from your work in Barcelona’s neighborhood of Raval. Do you live in the neighbourhood? What is it that draws you to this part of the city?
Sasha: Yes, I live in the heart of the southern Raval. I find this neighbourhood very interesting socially. I find people with an incredible diversity that you can’t find in any other place. I like to say that it is the Star Wars bar, where people seek refuge and acceptance, where no one judges you. Raval is a place of great social and anthropological wealth.
Ben: How would you describe the people you photograph? What is it about them that inspires you to make your art?
Sasha: They are people with a lot of intensity, which attracts me a lot. People with a lot of history, interesting pasts. People with lots of scars – I love scars.
Ben: What is your ambition? What would you like to do with your photography that you haven’t been able to do yet?
Sasha: Keep learning, knowing, investigating…
Ben: Do you see yourself as an artist or a documentarian?
Sasha: I think both. But I feel more artistic than anything. The camera is the brush that paints with colours, light and people. It is pure expressionism.
Ben: How do you feel about the way Barcelona is typically portrayed on social media (and in mainstream media in general)?
Sasha: In general very naive, like a theme park, with many layers of varnish that make it difficult to see its true face. I understand that this is usual for cities that have decided that tourism is the main economy.
Ben: Do you make money from your photography? Is this important to you?
Sasha: That’s right, I sell mostly to private collectors, most of them outside of Spain – the Netherlands and the USA. It is important, of course, you have to pay the bills.
Ben: What advice would you give to other photographers who want to create authentic work that doesn’t necessarily “fit” with mainstream media?
Sasha: Do not hesitate to do so, there is nothing worse than doing a job with the intention of pleasing or diminishing the truth. This is the norm for today’s society, and it’s a shame.
Sasha’s primary camera: Fujifilm X-Pro 3)
Sasha’s preferred prime lenses: Fujfilm 23mm and 50mm
Find out more about Sasha Asensio on his website: sasha.click