The Ones to Watch

British Journal of Photography

April 1 2017

1. What first brought you to photography?
My relationship with photography first started when I met Vanina Sorrenti in Paris she asked me to pose for her. We built a strong dialogue for many years and very quickly I became her assistant. My first task was to print her analogue photographs in the dark room. I have always approached life in an intuitive way and I realised that this great gift was given to me. I had experienced absolute freedom and felt that the world was without boundaries and that I had many stories to tell. This intoxicated me and I suddenly knew that I had found my medium, this magical tool, and I follow it.
2. On your website, you say you are committed to capturing the lesser known aspects of contemporary life. What do you mean by that? Can you expand ?
It is important for art to give people the opportunity to get out of their comfort zones and to start questioning ourselves. I find that my natural inclination is to show these lesser known aspects and somewhat invisible elements in society. To allow those people who have almost no voice to be seen, so as to create a dialogue, a relationship that might otherwise be impossible. I find most of these people fascinating and easily identify with them. I admire their surprising self confidence and how they assume their identity without judging others. The purity that comes from some of these supposedly flawed characters never ceases to amaze me. I have always been drawn, for example, to the court jesters portrayed by Velasquez, how ironic that they were the only ones who could get away with speaking their truth and that in return were painted in such a direct and honest way. They never flinched, they always looked straight at you and the results are some of the most brutal and human portraits that have ever been painted.
3. You parents fled Colombia in the early 90s to Paris. Could you expand a little on this? Do you think this experience is in any way formative or influences your work ?
Yes. Our having come to Paris allowed me to understand the seemingly arbitrary nature of life itself and the role that fate plays upon our lives. How dramatic circumstances force certain realities upon us that we must respond to, but it also made me more aware of where I came from and that through art I could somehow fill in the missing pieces of my life. It also allows for a greater amount of empathy towards others, their circumstances and life stories. I hope that through my work I can help create silent spaces for reflection, mirrors and windows that allow these questions to be explored by the audience and the viewer.
4. Would you say your work is autobiographical?
Art is autobiographical by its very nature and essence. When I started working on my first major project it was much more evident, I went directly to the source of my own family and worked directly from within my grandparents home, the nerve centre of who we were, where we came from and the place that we no longer recognised. It was almost an archeological, spiritual unraveling, a coming to terms with our conflicting realities, a place that seemed buried and forgotten and that required my complete immersion and finding myself in the depths and catacombs of our past that started to become present and real. I did not know what to expect and the result changed my life and the meaning of my work. It was my Genesis. Now my work has grown from that, other branches have appeared and other paths have opened themselves up to me. Each new project is a chapter, a new adventure, but my roots will never stop growing, and that awareness is what keeps me firmly in the present and in the universal timelessness of reality.
5. What are the themes you addresses with your work?
I find myself attracted to human themes that revolve around issues that deal with our morality, our vulnerability,and our identity. Usually from the point of view of those most vulnerable but not necessarily from a place of weakness. Usually from those most likely to be misunderstood or undervalued. Those that lack conformity to norms and conventional morality. Those that show us this other way, imperfect and beautiful, because they are not afraid to express themselves. The exercise of power in society seems almost always arbitrary and unforgiving, so I am interested in themes, circumstances, situations where it is possible somehow to escape from that.
6. What has been the most interesting moment in your career so far?
The most interesting moment or discovery in my career so far would have to be my experience and friendship with the Embera Chamis community in Colombia. It is during my journeys with them that I am driven ever closer to myself. I love their detachment from time, it allows me to observe nature and a life lived in the most beautiful way.
7. Could you talk a little bit about 'Ellas'
'Ellas' is a project about women. Without judgement and without censor. I let them and encourage them to be themselves. I look at different aspects of desire, femininity and sexuality. Im not telling them to be anything in particular, I just recognise certain qualities that I am attracted to and allow these qualities to come through. Qualities that come from dualities, such as power and vulnerability. Self confidence. Mysteriousness. Transcendence.
They are, maybe, in the spirit of Manet's Olympia, imperfect Goddesses. Strong enough to stir us. I try to make this panorama interesting, hopefully smart and thought provoking and always through my own particular perspective. Whenever someone creates something, the method has to reflect the theme. So, naturally, it all begins by my choosing the female characters who will give life to this work. Authentic human beings within the confines of a system. Not conventional or traditional beauties. Im always very focused and connected to these women. My pictures are not made to entertain, I work with the female body in a very intimate way.
8. What are your plans for the rest of the year ?
I will travel to Mana a little town in French Guiana for an Art Residency set up by the 'Institut Français'. A book is planned for publishing by Kominek, my first monograph, that hopes to chronicle the story of a village from the Caribbean coast, and it takes place in a Macondian setting. I will exhibit this chronicle project call ’Radio Macondo’ next December in ‘La Cité International des Arts‘ in Paris. Finally,I am also happily swept up by the exhibition of my 'Ellas' project in 'Les Rencontres d' Arles' this summer.