Street photographer brings Downtown Albuquerque into focus

Nathaniel Tetsuro Paolinelli currently has an exhibit at 516 Arts. (Courtesy of Nathaniel Tetsuro Paolinelli)

Editor’s note: Venue Plus continues “In Case You Didn’t Know,” a weekly feature with fun tidbits about New Mexicans and their projects.

Nathaniel Tetsuro Paolinelli finds beauty in every day life.

It’s the impetus behind him wanting to be a photographer.

“It was the iPhone 3G that got me taking photos,” he says. “I started to take pictures of people and using the apps to edit it. I’ve never been to school for it. I’ve just been interested in people.”

Paolinelli is known simply as Tetsuro on his social media pages. He’s also one of the photographers leading the way in street photography around Albuquerque on Instagram.

His pieces inspired 516 Arts to curate the exhibit “Nathaniel Tetsuro Paolinelli: Downtown.” The exhibit runs through Sept. 3. It is open noon-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and from 5-7 p.m. first Friday of the month.

“Marilyn” by Nathaniel Tetsuro Paolinelli

The exhibit was curated by Daniel Ulibarri.

Paolinelli took the photographs around Downtown Albuquerque between 2018 and 2022.

He says the solo exhibition spotlights intimate portraits of people and place, from nightlife, to families, to lowrider culture.

As a self-described documentary photographer, Tetsuro (as he is known on Instagram) is known for his compelling portraits and a unique ability to authentically engage with his subjects. His images suggest both an implicit trust between artist and subject and his desire to be a participant as opposed to an outsider taking snapshots.

Paolinelli’s photographs celebrate urban Albuquerque in a personal and compassionate way. His exhibition portraying the here and now is presented concurrently with “Art Meets History: Technologies of the Spirit,” which looks at the multiple histories of New Mexico through the eyes of contemporary artists.

“Pedro” by Nathaniel Tetsuro Paolinelli

Although the two shows are separate projects, they complement one another and reflect how past and present are inseparable.

“It’s really exciting for me to be able to show my work in a museum gallery on the same street where many of these photos were taken, here at home in Albuquerque,” he says.

There are 22 photos in the exhibit.

Paolinelli says it’s not about the story for him when he takes the photos.

“It sounds superficial, but I’m drawn to beautiful things,” he says. “I see the beauty all around. Being able to photograph people has given me a passport to go places that I wouldn’t be allowed. I find the interesting behind all the beauty.”

One can catch Paolinelli walking around Downtown any given day. Here are a few things you didn’t know about him:

1 “I’m driven to document the people and unique culture of my city.”

2 “I’ve tried to draw, and I tried to paint, but I could never put what’s in my head on the paper. With photography I am able to translate what I see and how I see it into a photograph.”

3 “I’m fascinated and interested with every one of my subjects. I love to hear their stories and make their portraits. They are what gives me the energy to be out here.”

4 “When I first went out on the streets to make photographs I took them from a distance, as I became more comfortable I started getting closer and closer to my subjects. These days I befriend them even if our time spent together is just a brief moment.”

5 “Sometimes I can’t remember what I did yesterday but I can look at one of my photos from years ago and it brings me back to that moment in time and I remember every detail.”

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