Martha Naranjo Sandoval, Sangre de mi Sangre

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2021 by Matarile Ediciones (here). Saddle stitched, self-cover with rubber-stamped obi band (5.5 x 8 inches), 32 pages, with 21 color photographs. Edited by Martha Naranjo Sandoval. Design by Aline Enríquez. In an edition of 300 copies. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: Matarile Ediciones is a new publishing initiative run by the New York-based artist Martha Naranjo Sandoval and the Mexico City-based designer Aline Enríquez. Their mission is to promote the work of “artists who are immigrants, their children, or part of a recent diaspora,” and they have begun by publishing a series of small photo zines. “No human is illegal” reads a tagline on their website and on all the obi bands that encircle their publications. 

The first three zines follow the same format (in terms of size and number of pages) and alternately feature the work of Groana Melendez, Cristina Velásquez, and Martha Naranjo Sandoval. Sangre de mi Sangre (translates as “blood of my blood” from Spanish) is zine number 02 and includes a series of images made by Sandoval reflecting on her own experience as an immigrant. The artist and photographer Justine Kurland was invited to be a guest editor for this publication.

Sandoval moved to the United States from Mexico in 2014, and she has been documenting her life here since that time, using the same film camera. By January of last year, her collection had grown to include some 300 rolls, neatly organized by date, and after a tight editing process, they became Sangre de mi Sangre.

A photograph of a male body, from above the belly button to the pubic hair, takes up the entire cover, while the title and the artist name are printed on the obi. The zine is the artist’s documentation of her life as an immigrant, and particularly her experience with the bureaucratic side of that existence. Since she moved to the US, the concept of “home” became a complex one for her to grasp: is it the place where one grows up or a place where (in the artist’s case) one lives with a husband and a cat? To Sandoval, and many immigrants, there are no easy answers to these questions.

In March of 2020, just before the pandemic began, she married her husband Dylan. “As newlyweds, we would be unable to leave the house for months, cementing the bond between us in ways unimaginable just weeks before,” she writes. As she applied for her marriage Green Card, Sandoval had to go through a scrupulous, bureaucratic process which required the couple to prove their relationship with hard evidence. “But how do you demonstrate strong bonds of affection and intimacy?” she asks.

The photographs in the zine capture Sandoval and her husband sharing tender and intimate moments, paired with observations of everyday life. Her images often focus on his long red hair, his body, his legs, and how they move together as a couple in their space. The zine opens with a shot of Sandoval on the street, looking back over her shoulder, while the photo on the right captures a small cactus planted on the side of the road. The juxtaposition makes clear parallels between a cactus growing in an alien environment and the artist herself living in a foreign country. The next spread pairs two photographs, one of Sandoval posing nude in her apartment with rays of sunshine on her body, and a second of her husband outside in a washed pink t-shirt – and then we notice that the artist is also present in the reflection of the building as she takes his photograph. 

Later on, an image of mannequins modeling wigs in a display window is placed next to a portrait of Dylan on the fire escape, as he stands with his eyes closed as sunlight falls on his face and body. It is a tender and gentle photograph. The zine ends with a full spread portrait of Sandoval, nude on the bed holding her cat as the sun gently touches her body. Her photographs powerfully document a story of trust, shared intimacy, and love, and it’s an emphatic and thoughtful response to the bureaucratic immigration process questioning her love relationship. 

Sangre de mi Sangre is an intimately small and self-contained project, well matched to the zine format. Sandoval’s photographs expose her vulnerability and share an emotional experience of public exposure that is not often discussed or documented. It’s a terrific start for the new imprint, and it will be exciting to see what other projects Matarile Ediciones will feature next. 

Collector’s POV: Martha Naranjo Sandoval is represented by Notas Al Futuro in Mexico/Colombia (here). Her work has little secondary market history at this point, so gallery retail remains the best option for those collectors interested in following up.

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