It is safe to say that Nestor Andrés Plasencia is one of the more influential people in the tobacco industry today, and yet I am willing to bet that 99 percent of people in the cigar business would not be able to pick him out of a lineup if called upon to do so. Humble, down to earth and extremely efficient, he seems to embody the success that Nicaragua has come to enjoy in the last few years. The family history reads like a John Jakes or Ken Follett novel — they have had their land and property taken from them by governments twice in two different countries — and the amount of perseverance they have had is truly astounding when you first learn of it.
While photographing the Plasencia factory over a period of three days early this year, Nestor Andrés, as he known to distinguish him from his father, drove me to their various holdings and tobacco fields in both Estelí and Jalapa in his own car, showed me everything I asked for, gave me total rein of the factory itself and patiently explained their thought process for how they do things.
This portrait was taken while taking a tour of one of Plasencia’s farms in Jalapa. I saw the light coming in from the left, and had Nestor Andrés lean against the railing with his head down, covering his face with his hat. I am extremely interested in the juxtaposition that he is so important in the overall process of the cigars that we love to smoke, but is almost invisible outside of his home country, and wanted the portrait to show him and his personality while also keeping him somewhat anonymous.
For those of you interested, I thought I would try and give some details on my thought process when shooting this portrait. As I said in my portrait of Jonathan Drew, there are always photographs that you see and think to yourself, “wow, that is a good photo,” but most likely, you don’t know exactly why. Well, there are specific reasons that is the case. In fact, your brain is hardwired to find specific elements in photographs pleasing and you notice those elements when you look at photographs, even if you don’t realize what they are at the time.
The first thing you may notice is that the Rule of Thirds is very much in affect, as I positioned Nestor Andrés to the far left of the frame (closer to the light), thus giving the right side of the frame not only more negative weight, but it is also quite a bit darker due to the light falloff. Since your eyes automatically gravitates toward the lightest part of a photograph (or scene), this forces your eye directly where I want it, toward the subject.
Next, you may notice that the bar the subject is sitting on and the bar in front of him both force your eye along a path that can only end up at him. This actually happens from both the right and the left side.
Lastly, when you do see the subject for the first time, you may notice that the pose I have Nestor Andrés in makes a rough circle encompassing his cigar, hat, middle body and both arms. This is done so that when you look at the main part of the photo that I want you to see (that is, his head and torso), your eye continues to roam in a circle since there is not a outlet for it to leave. In other words, once you look at the main part of his body, your eye will linger there since the view is pleasing to your unconscious mind.
For the photographers, here are the technical details. The photograph was taken using available light coming from a large open barn door on the left. The camera used was a Canon 1D Mark III and a 50mm f/1.2 lens shot at f/2.5. The shutter speed was 1/40sec at ISO 100. The photograph was shot in .CR2 RAW format, converted in Adobe Lightroom and edited in Adobe Photoshop CS.