Gaspar Marquez’s Southwest Sentinels

GraphisJune 5, 2024

Imagine a desert so mesmerizing it makes you pause and take a deeper look. That's the essence of the Sonoran Desert, where Gaspar Marquez created his award-winning series, "The King of The Desert." This project is about celebrating the saguaro cactus in all its majestic glory. With his precise and artistic approach, Gaspar has created images that transform the saguaro into a near-mythical figure. Explore the creative journey behind Gaspar's Gold Award work in the 2024 Graphis Photography Awards and appreciate the timeless beauty of these sentinels of the desert.

By: Gaspar Marquez, Freelance Photographer

I've always been attracted to the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona. For some reason, I think it's such a unique, mysterious, and magical place on Earth. This body of work I'm showing you is an homage to this unique habitat where I found all these particular elements that I'm drawn to, especially the Monarch of the Desert, which is Carnegiea gigantea, or the saguaro. I've never seen a cactus as tall, majestic, beautiful, and powerful as a saguaro. A fun fact about it is that when it reaches 95-100 years of age, a saguaro can reach a height of 15-16 feet and start producing its first arm. By 200 years old, the saguaro has reached its full height of 45 feet.

These images belong to a series called "The King of The Desert." My unique artistic style is an expression of creating images in an almost mathematical way, dissecting the subject aesthetics piece by piece, somehow creating an illusion of movement as a consequence of the 35 or more shots taken in making the "contact sheet." Therefore, these images are all seen as a whole and allow the viewer to witness an almost life-size 2D sculpture in a Neo-Cubism fashion.

My family lives in Tucson, AZ, and it's always been at the back of my mind to create an homage to these beautiful plants that live and reign in the Sonoran Desert. So, I started researching it and discovered the Saguaro National Park, which protects all of our largest cacti species and features camping, hiking, and backpacking trails for every level. This park is split into east and west. I particularly liked the western side better for my project because I believe it takes me to a timeless zone that is perfect for the Monarch of the American West.

The challenges were more about logistics rather than technical or such. I shot this project during the winter/spring instead of the summer, so I didn't have to worry about 130-degree weather, venomous rattlesnakes, crazy spiders, and mountain lions. I was more concerned about finding the perfect place and saguaros, but surprisingly, they found me. It's a little weird to explain, but I felt at peace and connected to nature and the universe, or God if you wish. It was such a spiritual bond, and it felt right.

The outcome and impact have been excellent. This project was an official selection of the 2023 International Photography Awards, and I gave an artist talk about this in New York City. It's won several awards and published in several publications and online. It also received a Gold Award in the 2024 Graphis Photography Awards. I am very proud of this. It feels like the completion of a long project, but in the end, it was all worth it and well received.

I am more confident and assertive after the outcome of my project. The Gold Award from Graphis makes me feel like a champion, gives me more weight as an artist, and boosts my self-esteem to higher heights and new horizons. I believe more in myself and my future projects and ideas. I hope that if you're still reading this, it gives you some hope and inspiration to believe in yourself and execute your personal projects. Life is an opportunity to create and share our ideas and projects with the world and leave our work as a legacy for future generations. Thank you, Graphis, for this fantastic opportunity to talk about my art and somehow leave my fingerprints in the photography world.


Gaspar Marquez was born in Mexico. He's a self-taught photographer but took plenty of classes at prestigious schools such as the School of the International Center of Photography and the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He's won about 30 photography awards in the last three years and has a BA in business administration in Mexico. Over the years, he's been influenced by the great masters of the medium, such as Man Ray, Nick Knight, and Helmut Newton, alongside notable painters like Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, and Urban Art. He's currently working as a freelance photographer shooting fine art, portraits, and lifestyle. He loves music, traveling, nature, animals, and great documentaries. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, but would love to retire and live by a calm, safe beach on the Sea of Cortez or in a cool cabin by the Grand Canyon.

Social: Instagram, X, LinkedIn


To see more Photography 2024 competition winners, click here.

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