Barcelona-based photographer Martina Matencio has mastered the imaginative art of capturing the beauty that lies within the human body.
Many years ago, Martina Matencio offered to take care of a mentally ill child in a hospital during nights. Manuel was on the verge of dying and it was certainly a difficult commitment, but eventually, Martina decided that she was up for the task.
“I started taking pictures of his knees, his arms,” she begins to recount. “He was sick but it all looked very beautiful. The light in that room was gorgeous and it really got me thinking how something so sad could seem so beautiful to me.”
Drawn in by this beautiful and fleeting moment, Martina points to this as the tipping point that really piqued her interest in photography and motivated her to pursue it full-time. The bond developed between Manuel and herself was immortalized through the photos she took of him. “There I realized that there was nothing more human and beautiful than that memory,” she gushes. “I would say that life put me in front of Manuel so I could learn everything that I now communicate through my photography.”
While she’s now a well-established international photographer based out of Barcelona, Martina launched her career alongside a friend in creating Luna de Marte, a vintage-inspired fashion brand. She was tasked with taking photos of the clothing and developing the visual representation of the brand. In doing so, Martina stumbled upon her own visual style that has come to define her work to this day.
Her impressive list of projects has her particular aesthetic stamped throughout, usually using lots of natural light to focus on the human body in imaginative ways. She gravitates towards innocent and delicate female subjects who wear expressions that mix pain and pleasure. This euphoric feeling of a happy sadness has become adored across her networks, most notably her fitting Instagram handle, @lalovenenoso, a combination of the words love and venenoso, Spanish for poisonous.
“There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
Throughout Martina’s work, there’s an evocative mood throughout. She enjoys creating a sensual and nostalgic atmosphere in which her subjects are illuminated by natural light and desaturated colours. This mood heightens the nostalgic nature of her photos, fitting for capturing the fragility of the ethereal moments.
“I rely on intuition,” Martina explains. “I almost always end up improvising and letting myself get carried away by the moment, the space and especially the light. I feel like light gives strength to my images.”
With her mastery of lighting as a central focus throughout, Martina sweeps through with her own emotionally-charged visual style that ultimately reflects her own worldview. She wants to show sensuality, delicacy and melancholy, but she disputes the fact that her subjects are fragile. In Martina’s eyes, the soulful depictions are a sign of strength.
Martina’s work is perhaps most captivating, however, due to the intense nature of the subject matter: the human body. For Martina, it’s about getting creative with the human body. She showcases everyday human elements in creative and imaginative ways. What about the human body makes it so interesting? “The unknown,” she interjects. “What you don’t really see with the naked eye. I like to find parts that the human eye can’t see. I like to find details and spaces in the body.”
Beyond the surface, Martina tells an insightful story filled with femininity and complexity. The emotionally-charged images are only heightened by the airy, almost surreal atmosphere. “For me, everybody, all bodies are beautiful,” she adds. “I feel like I show it in small parts and, in the end, they all create some sort of map with all my images.”
Martina aims to capture the nostalgia of a person and immortalize the essence of the moment. In photography, that instant can be unique and fleeting. For Martina, it’s a game of light and the human body that stems from a genuine trust and bond with her subject.
“I remember the first job I did professionally and I remember thinking ‘this was the best decision I’ve made in my life,’ ” she recalls with a smile. “It all started in that hospital room with Manuel. Step by step I have been growing and evolving and gaining more experience, but my main starting point comes from that essence.”
There simply isn’t anyone like Martina Matencio. While she has photographers she looks to for inspiration, her work has her worldview plastered across. She recognizes the beauty of the female body in all its complexities and subtleties. “I guess what I want the viewer to feel is what I am feeling, although that may be a bit complicated,” she admits with a laugh.
Stayed tuned for an upcoming personal project by Martina Matencio entitled Lloramos (“We cry”). Follow her journey on Instagram here.
Words by Braeden Alexander.