Luis Sanchis Brings Back the '90s With New Photo Book

Luis Sanchis Brings Back the '90s With New Photo Book

The photographer has worked with too many clients, in too many places around the world, to count. He talks to V about his experiences.

The photographer has worked with too many clients, in too many places around the world, to count. He talks to V about his experiences.

Text: Megan Armstrong

Have you ever dangled from a crane beside Robbie Williams, upside down with arms spread in faith like an angel high above the City of Angels? Spent hours on a secluded beach with Leonardo DiCaprio? Attended as a fan a 1982 Rolling Stones show in Madrid, in the pouring rain, only to be asked to shoot the band's promotional tour photos 20 years later? Luis Sanchis might very well be the only person who can answer yes to all of the above.

The 53-year-old photographer has also been on thousands of other adventures with thousands of other people, all of which he holds equally as dear — as dearly as DiCaprio fans hold Jack Dawson. Now, on a deceivingly sunny Wednesday afternoon in late January, Sanchis sits tucked away in the back lounge of a Manhattan café, ready to relive it all. “Who was going to tell me as a photographer I would end up shooting The Rolling Stones? What? I couldn't even imagine something like that," he marvels. "Life is funny."

He tells his stories with a reminiscent smile on his face for the better part of an hour, which brings us to his newly released self-titled book featuring 120 of his photos, selected meticulously over a year. The book released in November and is limited to only 1,000 copies.

“For me, it’s not just a photo -- I know the stories behind them,” Sanchis explains of the book. “So I know what it took. I know how many people were involved, and I know how many influenced me in the execution of those images. You write your history, right? It’s just not you go to a studio, everybody’s there, hair and makeup, you shoot and everything’s fun. Because many of these photos [in the book] were shot on location, sometimes with low budget and sometimes with no budget. You cannot tell the ones done with low budget or no budget. Sometimes we would drive around the desert for two or three days and stop wherever I felt, and that’s where we shot. Slept in hotels. All those stories, they are part of my life. You can’t see in the photos. But maybe you can feel other things — when you look at the photo, you have an experience."

Sanchis moved to New York City in 1994 from his home in Valencia, Spain, but he didn't start really shooting photography until 1996. Away from the camera, he found himself in numerous different positions: painting, cinematography, acting, production, assistant, DJ, window decoration for department stores, bartending, handyman jobs, chef assistant and even, at one point, a garbage man. Photography, for him, is a mixture of all those things. "It just happens organically," he says. "Each job gives you a lot."

The bulk of the book includes images from 1996 to around 2003, the same time Sanchis was contributing to now-defunct British magazine The Face. There’s a certain nostalgia surrounding that time (see: reboots of Will & Grace, Roseanne and The Mighty Ducks for further proof), and specifically, when it comes to photography, because of the tangible experience offered through the necessity of shooting on film. Back then, Sanchis recalls, the Internet and photo editing applications weren't nearly as prominent. Smartphones weren't accessible. There was no option to snap a so-so photo in the present and then go back in later to manipulate the past. There was only the present to capture. To put it succinctly, “either you get it on camera and you get it with the light on film, or you’re fucked.”

Though always up for the challenge, it's grown difficult to cling onto what he fell in love with about photography. “When I was growing up, we used to buy vinyls," he says. "You used to go to your bedroom and just put the record on and look at the cover. Usually, they were amazing because they were amazing artists back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, also the ‘90s, you would be immersed in that photo, that drawing, and your imagination would go to other places. Now, on the internet, it’s so fast. You don’t even feel the photo. You just look at it like, ‘I like it, looks cool.’ But you don’t spend minutes or hours just looking there and listening to music, and that’s, for me, those photos? There’s a whole process of the making, and it took a long time and a lot of people to do that stuff.”

In 2010, Sanchis reluctantly started shooting digitally. He still loves film, and when budget or time allows, he'll choose to shoot with it. But with our world's growing obsession with technology, fewer and fewer quality printers exist. This makes Sanchis' book all the more special — and there is great value in getting a quality photo. Remember that DiCaprio scenario on the beach? That was in 2000, for a cover of The Face. Leo was fresh off Titanic, the highest-grossing movie in the world, and preparing for the release of The Beach. He was seen as a good pretty boy. Sanchis took DiCaprio's photo using his signature dark coloring and natural presentation. After that spread ran, DiCaprio started to get cast for darker, more complicated roles.

Sanchis takes pride in how few retouches, if any, his photos have. Sometimes that means people taking an untouched photo of Kate Moss and falsely linking it to her recent exit from rehab in 1999. But this is not their problem. All Sanchis can control is what he sends out into the world. Is the photo honest? Did he use what was set before him and express it to the best of his ability? "Whatever you're going to feel, you might connect with the artist or what the artist was trying to express to you," he muses, "but a lot of it is going to be your experience, your perception, your interpretation. So it might be something completely different than what the artist was trying to tell you." His approach for his life and work: "Do what you love in a way that you like."

While each photo is incredibly detailed, he purposefully leaves the specifics a little blurred. Sure, you can see the Northern Lights in the background, but was it taken in Iceland? Norway? Finland?  You can't know, and you're not supposed to know. The specific details and stories behind each photo are for Sanchis and those who were present to know. What you see is for your imagination.

Sanchis' book is available for purchase here for $69.

Credits: Photos courtesy of Luis Sanchis

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