Dispatches: Eric Labastida

1998 Eric in his element. Tijuana, Mexico.Original on Kodachrome

I met Eric Labastida in 1996 while covering the Republican convention in downtown San Diego. We were both TRI-X shooting, Leica wielding documentary “kids” who were Hell bent on anything Magnum. Around us during those days were the likes of Abbas, Phillip Jones Griffiths and Alex Webb, all Magnum luminaries and in our eyes, heroes, legends. The people we wanted to be.

Over the next few years Eric and I shot in San Diego, and more importantly, Tijuana. Eric took it far beyond anything I ever did, and ended up shooting in TJ for twelve years. He’s had some interesting moments over the years, even had a brush with Magnum, for real, but ultimately remains to this day a guy who walks the street looking for stand alone moments. Shoot, edit, print.(His darkroom was in a cave.)

On a side note, I once convinced him to paint a racing number on his 1995 Mazda 323 which we nicknamed “Numero Siete.” I was sure it added at least 5mph to the top end. It became the border horse of choice.

This interview is long and rambling, just like our history. Oh, he just reminded me. He was in the hospital once, something muy serio, and I never visited him. For that I am not surprised but truly sorry.


1998, Tijuana. Zona Norte

You could say he’s a Leica guy.

16 Comments on “Dispatches: Eric Labastida”

  1. That was so, so, good; thank you Daniel and Eric. From the photos of Eric you can tell he’s a big guy, Leica cameras are small but on him they look tiny!
    Loved the interview and related to all that was said.
    The “Why did they let him in?” quote buy Philip Jones Griffiths: I pretty sure I know who you mean. If I’m correct, Philip wrote an open letter to Magnum, stating why he felt the person wasn’t suitable to be a member.
    In Our Time – I have the book! I’ll buy Eric’s book too.

  2. Daniel, one of my favourite P.J.G. photographs is of American G.I.s filling their canteens with rainwater falling off trees: they preferred it to the chlorine-infused water shipped out to them from the U.S. Another is of a marine giving a drink from his canteen to a wounded V.C. soldier who has a bowl tied to a stomach wound. The marine says “anyone who can fight with such a wound can drink from my canteen and I’m proud of it” (I paraphrase). The sequence was used in the film Apocalypse Now (Robert Duvall, one of my favourite actors). “Charlie don’t surf!”.

  3. Just listened to this for a second time – it’s so good. I keep thinking about Eric’s box of 5 x 7 prints: his ‘Greatest Hits’. A box of prints led to Eddie Adams and Magnum. I can’t think of a better endorsement for printing your work.
    Thanks again guys.

    1. Mike. I think printing your own work is a crucial final step to realizing what exactly you shot.
      A box of prints also serves as a great ice breaker for people who may not be easy with you taking their picture.

      Be well!)

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  5. Great interview. Eric, you sound very much like the actor Clancy Brown (the guard in The Shawshank Redemption.). If I had just stumbled upon this audio, I would have thought it was him.

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