Javier Mendoza

“I never asked what his thoughts were at that moment when he was smelling the lavender.”

Interview by L. Valena

Can you describe to me what you responded to?

It's a photo with many hands, like a long time lapse.

What was your first reaction to that?

Oh my god, what am I supposed to do with this? And also: is this only one person's hands, or is it two people? Then I thought it was only one person's hands in the photo. Since I wanted to make a portrait, and I received that photo from someone I don't know (yet), I wanted to do the same thing, and look for someone I don't know- to work with someone in my studio. I also wanted to capture the hands of this person, but I wanted to play with more elements, like perfume or things like that. So this person could be moving the hands through their body.

So I posted on Instagram if someone in my city wanted to participate with me and do a photo shoot. And this guy said he'd be interested. He had never been in a studio, and he said he would like a portrait. I told him that I wanted something more abstract, not like the perfect portrait for a fashion magazine. And he was like, don't worry about it, I want to help you. And then I told him to come to my house, to my studio, and we started working. I put some elements in his hands: lavender, mint, and coffee. I asked him to smell it with closed eyes, so he could move his hands. You notice that his hand is not in a particular position, he was smelling the lavender, and the peppermint. I was shooting while he was like in his trip- the kind of trip he was having. At the end he said the photo shoot was like a passage- a journey. He was very relaxed with the smells. All that I wanted was for him to move his hands- I wanted to continue with the main element in the photo that you sent me, and that's why I decided to work this way with him.

I think it's so cool that you involved a stranger in the work.

He’s been a follower since like six months ago, and he likes all my photos, so he was not quite a stranger, but I'd never met him before.

Okay- like an internet friend.

Yeah, the internet helps a lot.

It does, right? Remind me where you're located?

I'm in Mexico.

And I'm located in Boston. How cool that we're on the phone talking about this project that we're working on together! It's pretty amazing!


So you had the model come over, and you gave him these smells. What is it about lavender, peppermint and coffee that made you choose those?

These are things that I love. I love coffee- the smell of coffee wakes you up and reminds you of many things. I find that coffee connects to melancholy and things like that, so I wanted to use coffee. And I also must confess that I stalked him by looking at his photos, and saw that he was a coffee lover. And I love mint, it's a very strong smell, and can like trip you. I grew up surrounded by lavender, and I have a lavender plant in my house. So I decided to work with these three elements, and that the shoot would last one hour in the studio.

So it seems almost like it was a way to introduce yourself to him. To meet someone and help him maybe understand something about yourself.


I think that's interesting, because this work is all about hands, and hands are so personal. We usually meet people with a handshake.

I didn't think about that before, to be honest, but you're right. But there's only one hand in the (prompt) photo, and I wanted to connect that. I don't know if I got this. It's a very abstract and dark photo, and probably nobody will imagine that there are perfumes around the photo.

When you look at this now, what does it say to you?

Something unexpected. I didn't draw in my mind before what I wanted- I just let it happen to see where it went. I wanted to work with hands, and these essences from the plants, and I'm very happy with this photo I selected. Out of a hundred photos I took, this one is very mysterious. You can tell that there is a hand, but to me if I looked at it for the first time, I would be wondering who is he? And what is he doing with that hand at that moment? And even more mysterious to me- what was he thinking? I never asked what his thoughts were at that moment when he was smelling the lavender. This photo it's specifically about lavender- he has lavender in his hands.

Is there anything else that you have to say about this process?

Javier’s Holga lens

Javier’s Holga lens

Yes! I would like to say that I worked with a toy lens.

A what?

A toy lens. Like from a toy camera? It's not a toy camera, it's a DSLR Nikon, but the lens is a toy- it's adapted to the camera.

What toy?

You know the Holga cameras? They have a kids version. So I adapted the lens to the DSLR. That's why there is so much noise in the photo. It's very low resolution.

How cool! Yeah, it reminds me of ghost photography.

It's a 23 megapixels camera, but I didn't add any noise to the photo.

Do you have any advice for someone else doing this project?

Let it flow. Let it flow from your idea, and do not plan it too much.

Call Number: Y10VA | Y14VA.meSce



Javier Mendoza born in Mexico in 1984 and started taking photographs at the age of 14 in a self-taught way. In 2001 he started computer science studies in the local university and after graduating his love of the arts led him to move to Ecuador where he enrolled in the Photography and Imaging- Art Center. Since then he has been exhibited in galleries and art festivals in Ecuador and Mexico.