The Momentum of the Moment in Loose Fish

The short film Loose Fish by Argentinian duo Pato Martinez and Francisco Canton was developed into a book, which illustrates the nuances of the routine of a young Moroccan boy working and the harbor and his desire to start a new life.

The short film Loose Fish (Pez Suelto) directed by Argentinian filmmakers Francisco Canton and Pato Martinez, was shot in 2018 and premiered in TIFF and BFI London in September 2020. The short originated from the interpretations and photographs made during a trip to Essaouira, a Moroccan port city facing the Atlantic. Today, the sensations gathered for the creation of the film have been renewed into a homonymous printed book, which traces the milestones of its cinematic counterpart on paper. This is the first photographic book of the duo, and it narrates instances of the daily life of a young Moroccan fisherman, whose context pushed him to become a grown-up too fast. He is not passionate about his job, and he does not even like the smell of the sea, which permeates his clothes and hands, leaving him distressed.

By means of a photographic approach that is worldly and genuine, Loose Fish shows the intricate dynamics of an arena made of contradictions; one that stands on its convoluted ancient traditions, which articulate the daily living of citizens and the complexities that shape those lives. In the visualisation of such narratives, particular significance is attributed to the sea and its surrogates: fish, nets, waves, gulls, boats, and the harbour. The interdependencies of the seaside area epitomise a microcosm wherein the young protagonist strives to survive in precarious conditions, which are however characterised by the presence of rooted social norms. The work of Canton and Martinez displays the nuances of these perpetual, impassioned conflicts.

The photographic book Loose Fish develops around two intersecting narratives, one concerning the notes taken by the young filmmakers that render the book a journal of a personal experience, and one that is related to the plot of the film, which remains underlined in the book. Therefore, this project oscillates between being a documentary and a fiction. This fluctuation empowers the work, encouraging the reader, or viewer, to ask questions and increase empathy. The outcome is a fiction that is extremely close to reality, or a reality that is extremely close to fiction, in an allegorical analogy with real life. 

The project is in fact rich in allegories, starting from sea-related objects and visions. Moreover, in the book, as well as in the film, hands assume a high symbolic connotation. They are canvases that show the fatigue of hard work, the viscosity left on them by the skin of fish, the contact with nature and others. The young fisherman smells his hands and the pungent odour fills his nose. His smell raises other people’s prejudices on his very existential condition. The boy is paralleled to an older fisherman, whom he goes to sea with. The two human beings are different faces of the same coin, one that is traded at the market for a bit of fresh fish, one that is worthless at any other market, elsewhere, because elsewhere is not a viable option in the pre-determined animation of have-nots.

Here emerges the unstable life of the protagonist, who seeks to find an alternative route for himself. The motorcycle he hides within barren nature, at the feet of a leafy tree, is the ultimate pictogram of the escape and abduction of the self. Therefore, the reality of the being is no longer passively fixed by the structure. There is a liminal space wherein agency can stem, where room is left for the manifestation of an individuality that he chooses and dictates. The printed version of Loose Fish becomes a logbook that expresses the vivid shades of the routine, demonstrating how many moments flee the cycle of total predictability.

Ultimately, the core of the work displays the precarious existence of a boy that is embedded in a social context that forces him to quickly become adult. This is coupled with the realisation that life is ephemeral and moments follow each other with momentum. Therefore, it is key to engage in the personal conquest of what is commonly understood as destiny. With this in mind, Loose Fish depicts a window beyond which a forgotten soul finds a degree of earned autonomy.


All works © Francisco Canton & Pato Martinez from Loose Fish


Francisco Canton (b. 1992) is a filmmaker and photographer based in Buenos Aires. After starting out in graphic design and moving onto film, he found a strong interest in photography towards his late 20s. Follow him on Instagram.

Pato Martinez (b. 1985) is an Argentinian photographer and filmmaker. He started with photography intuitively, taking pictures digitally at a young age and later began interacting with celluloid and analog cameras when studying cinema in New York. Follow him on Instagram.

Sofia Galli is a writer, poet, and expert in heritage studies. Her focuses include the relationship between art and politics, the theory of mobilities in exhibitions, and the examination of expositions in non-canonical spaces. Follow her on Instagram and PhMuseum.

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