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Architect-shutterbug: a line should always lead you to something

FIVE years ago Mexican architect and financial consultant Francisco Marin was a trailing spouse who turned his eye to professional photography. Sam Riley snaps a picture.

It wasn't until Mexican photographer Francisco Marin came to Shanghai that a hobby he had pursued since school days finally blossomed into a new career.

Marin found himself in the unfamiliar position of being a trailing spouse to his wife Kata, who works in human resources, when the family moved to Shanghai almost five years ago. After a year as a self-described "house husband," the former architect, financial adviser and health economist decided to train his eye on a new role as a professional photographer.

The father of two first discovered photography in high school and had been an avid enthusiast ever since.

Located in the funky creative center at 696 Weihai Road, his Istudio69 photography business has expanded and now takes on briefs for fashion, interior design and a diverse range of corporate clients.

Originally from Mexico City, Marin studied as an architect before designing buildings for the banking and telecommunications industry.

"My architectural training is a big influence on my photographic style," says Marin.

"I am always paying attention to the architectural side of a landscape or building I photograph. I am looking for lines and you learn when studying architecture that a line in building or design should always lead you to something."

After Mexico's financial crisis in 1994, Marin moved into financial consulting and advised on business development for a range of companies across Latin America.

"As an architect you have to be involved in almost every aspect of a project, from financial analysis and cost analysis for construction, and you also have to understand accounting," he says.

"I was familiar with all these kinds of things, so the move into financial consultancy was not such a big jump."

After two years, Marin was again using his knowledge of building design, working for a building construction company using various aspects of intelligent design.

This covered everything from eco-friendly elements, such as energy efficiency, to security and even an automated robotic car parker.

"Tenants could send a message to the robot from their computer. The robot would fetch their car and it would be waiting for them when they arrived downstairs," Marin explains.

In 1999 Marin's career again took a different tangent and he moved into health economics.

Marin and his team prepared detailed studies on a range of drugs, comparing the short, medium and long-term economic case for a range of drugs and their generic version.

The economist would look at a group of drugs and analyze elements, including treating potential side effects, the effectiveness of the drug and its cost. Thus he and his team could work out which drug would be the most cost-effective and beneficial for an individual, an institution and a health system to use.

'House husband'

But Marin says there was little opportunity for him in the fields of architecture or health economics when the family moved to Shanghai in September 2004.

But being the trailing spouse and so-called "house husband" for his first year had unexpected benefits.

"I had the opportunity to reconnect with my daughters (Tabatha, 12, and Michelle, 11) because I had been working full time basically all my life," he says.

"It was nice to have this very important time with them before they start to grow up a lot."

It wasn't until he started to look at what he would do in Shanghai that he decided to make his passion for photography into a career.

"Photography has always been a hobby and I never thought I would turn it into a career," he says.

"But I had my camera and equipment and I thought, 'Hey, I am good at this, so why not?'"

Marin refreshed his skills, taking a photography course at Jiao Tong University before getting his first gig for an interior designer.

It has been more than four years since Marin launched his photography career and his company. Since then the business has grown steadily to include work for corporate clients that include the Shanghai Center and for sponsors at Shanghai's annual HSBC Champions golf tournament.

In 2008 he shot pictures for the visit of Mexican President Felipe Calderon to Shanghai.

Marin also passes his skills on to amateur photographers looking to capture some of the magic of Shanghai, giving regular courses at the Community Center Shanghai.

With plans to start highly stylized, individual wedding portraits and launch his first solo exhibition, Marin says his move to China has inspired him creatively.

"In China there are so many opportunities and ways to see things, to create angles and to practice photography in a very different way," he says. "Here you have the time, the people and the proper environments to begin a number of projects."

Anyone interested in Marin's photography can contact him via e-mail at

Francisco Marin

Nationality: Mexican

Age: 39

Profession: Photographer



Dedicated, detailed and determined.

Favorite place: The Bund.

Strangest sight: The amount of people you can jam into an elevator.

Worse experience:Being in an accident when my taxi hit another car. I was hurt in my leg and the police and the drivers of the cars involved were more worried for their cars than my leg.

Improve Shanghai:

Courtesy and hygiene habits.

Motto for life:

Never be afraid to try new things.

Advice to newcomers:

Try to make the best of your new home with your family. Shanghai offers so many things to do and places to explore.


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