Art finds each of us in our own way. It can be an occupation or hobby. Something that surrounds your life, as audience or performer. For Mexico City-based model Mar Castañedo, art has evolved through each of those scenarios.
After studying French literature at The National Autonomous University of Mexico, Castañedo worked doing French to Spanish translations but also found herself modeling for a wide variety of local artists — painters and photographers in search of live models. Those experiences pulled her deeper into the art world of Mexico, a vibrant community of artists speaking their own truth, and their own history.
How long have you been modeling? How did you get started doing it?
This is a story that I love to tell. I have been six years in this world of modeling. When I was 17 years-old I met a lot of photographers that became my friends and we made photos just for fun. Years after, when I was 19 years old, I used to practice hula hoop very often outside the university theater, when a painter named Santillán saw me, asked me if he could draw me, and started drawing me while I was dancing. When he finished he gave me his card offering me work modeling for his drawing classes, I accepted and since then, little by little I became a professional model.
I’m glad to say my modeling career started in the region of the State of Mexico because this place has a bad reputation for having a lack of culture, I can say the opposite, there are so many creative and sensitive people — so many artists who, unconsciously, fight against the centralization given to Mexico City.
Did modeling come naturally to you?
When I’m in front of a camera or a painter, I am another person. I’m a character of the universe created by the artist. I give myself into it. However, I can say we can always get better at what we’re doing so I feel that all of these years helped me. I’m more fluent in poses and expression than before and it’s easier getting into the character the artist needs.
Outside of working with photographers, are you also doing live modeling for artists? Is that something that interests you?
I go to a lot of art/design conventions and there’s starting to be a good number of artists from Mexico displaying at these events in Los Angeles and elsewhere. How do you see the art scene in Mexico?
Mexico is a place full of artists that need to be discovered! Mexican people are very sensitive in many ways and fortunately, some of them guide this energy to make art. I can say it’s a very surreal place with a lot of diversity in creativity.
As I remember when I finished shooting and the photographer invited me to a ‘free poetry party.’ We went to a very dangerous neighborhood in Mexico City. The house was really neglected, the young people that lived there hadn’t any money but they created a little library of fanzines made by themselves inside the house. So that is a clear example that taught me that even if some people are in hard conditions they, as artists, will always find a way to express share their art.
Are there any local artists you admire?
Yes! There are a lot of artists that I admire very much! Writers, painters, photographers, dancers, musicians!
I love the work of painters Jaime Santillan and Yoana Martell, photographer Riccardo Arriola, the photographer Lluvia Ramírez, the photographer Jaime Martinez, the photographer Speck, the writer Lola Ancira, the dancer and model Jessica, the model Monica Colin, the painter Miguel Casco, The painter and professor Tsune Orozco, the writer Victor Bahena, the artist Balam, the photographer Mel Nocetti, the photographer Manuel Marañón, The photographer Luis, the photography director Alfredo Altamirano, the philosopher Axel Velasco, the musician Eduardo San Martín and his wonderful band Little German, the musician and poet Ricardo Rojas, the photographer Jose Luis Sandoval…there are so many!
I feel very lucky to say I know all the people on this list! They’re all wonderful. They’re all Mexicans and they want to create and change the world. This list is to say there are so many people creating in Mexico and in here, there is a generation who is not indifferent to what is happening in the world. They change, they move and they share.
Modeling is a very collaborative art form. Are you only working with photographers you know or looking for new photographers? How do you choose who to work with?
I’m always open to know and to work with new photographers. I am fascinated by seeing different ways of creation and imagination.I choose photographers by :
– their style and that we share a similar way to see nudity or at least that he/she is aware of the numerous meanings nudity has! Not only a sexual one.
– their reputation (It is needed to avoid persons who believe having a camera makes them photographers and avoiding people that use the camera as an excuse to see you naked.)
– the respect they give to the model’s work. I’ve met photographers that don’t believe the models help their creative process and, in fact, they feel they’re doing a favor to the model, forgetting that this process is always a collaborative creation.
– and last but not least, they have to be always respectful.
You’ve worked with Riccardo Arriola a few times and even showed up in his Vogue spread. Your work together is so natural. You can see the strength and confidence coming from you. How did you end up working with Riccardo? Did you know your work together was going to be published by Vogue Italia?
I’ve known Riccardo for more than 3 years. He’s so special to me because, at that moment, unconsciously, I didn’t believe in my work as a model and he was one of the first artists who cheered me up and told me every day he believed in me. I knew him on Facebook. I published in my profile that I was giving french classes. He contacted me to ask for some information. We met, I gave him a class and days after he asked me to pose for him. As I said, at that moment I didn’t believe in my work because I didn’t even want to charge him for the shooting. He told me that it was not possible; he didn’t accept the fact I didn’t charge him and he paid me for the shooting. That was one of the moments where I realized my time, my image, my creativity counted a lot. And that is a part of this process of seeing me as a professional model.
Our first shooting was so special, we talked a lot and he shared with me his vision about making photos to people… “I want to photograph people as they deserve, and everyone deserves to feel beautiful.” And indeed, the results of that shooting were amazing. I can say that shooting and ones in the streets are still my favorites nowadays. Time passed and we got to know each other better and I noticed that Riccardo is very committed to his work, so I’m not surprised that we achieved to be in publications like Vogue Italia, but I have to admit I didn’t imagine it before meeting him!
Were you always wanting to be a model? Is it something that came naturally to you?
I’ve never thought that I would be a model, but there was something deep inside of me that helped me a lot to feel very comfortable in front of a camera. I have to admit that, when I worked for the first time in drawing classes, I was really nervous. Nudity was to me so sacred (it still is but in a renovated way) and I never conceived the idea to be showing my body to strangers before!
What helped me a lot was the respectful environment artistic working makes, in fact, that helped the germination of my conception of nudity: it’s not just a sexual element but a natural way to exist with so many diversifications. As the eyes of the artists were on me/my body I knew there wasn’t any bad intention, it was a study of the movement and the mere existence of my body. And that experience contributed to not feel shame with my naked body in photoshoots.