More than just showing, the aim is to make it visible.
Over the past fifteen years, this body of work has always oscillated between two distinct scales: that of the urban landscape which is often the condensed history of the man-altered landscape, and that of detail which, decontextualized, invites to an expanded gaze. This work, organized in series, is informed by my studies and background in architecture and is closer to the organized and formal rigor of a surveyor than to someone who portrays the city from afar and with broad strokes.
The city has always been my territory, from the historic centers of Southern Europe to the industrial parks of the North American peripheries, and by recording different ways of thinking and making the city, the challenge always lies in looking beyond our daily distractions and to invite for a closer look at the world around us, to discover the beauty in unusual places.
I think of this work as a forever unfinished inventory of city fragments that, sometimes in these series, are combined and juxtaposed into impossible landscapes. More than photographs of the territory, these images are the territory of photography and invite the viewer, while witness and co-author of these landscapes, to move into spaces of speculation and reflect on the city.
Looking back at one of my favorite pictures from one of my first rolls from the Fall of 1989.
My father loved the visual arts but was unable to master any kind of artistic practice. He did, however, approach his shortcomings with humor and never let them stop him from showing me almost everything there was to see in the art world. Because of this, he continually motivated me to try new things and develop critical thinking.
In September of 1989, he signed me up for a photography course and from then on, I began to photograph avidly. Looking back, I am grateful to my mother’s patience for allowing me to setup a dark room in the bathroom and to my father for the Sunday mornings that he took me photographing. I think during those first two or three years, on these Sundays, I went to almost every place within 15 miles of our house with the Nikon around my neck.
It was on one of those first Sunday mornings that I took this picture. We rarely talked about my photographs, but my dad always told me it was “one of the good ones”. Thirty years later, I think he was right. I’m so sorry I can no longer talk to him about this photograph.
Over the past few years, in classes, lectures, and workshops, I am often approached to explain the principles behind the way I frame: “From so many options, why this one?”
Much of the pleasure I get from photography comes essentially from the act of searching for the right vantage point and the most appropriate framing. Having a more or less clear idea of my intention, the photograph forms itself the moment I look through the ground glass or viewfinder and visualize it. There are several prior decisions – camera, lens, film, time, etc. – which are relatively simple to answer when we know exactly what we want to achieve and a set of subsequent actions that follow a more or less logical progression: copying, processing, developing, proofing, printing, etc.. But it is between these two stages that, for me, the most important decisions take place.
If we exclude the question of the representation of the three dimensions on a two-dimensional plane, which is a common attribute in almost every field of photography, framing-related decisions are perhaps my main concern when shooting. I would like to say that framing is the first concern of most photographers, but the number of beheaded people on thousands of photo albums around the world tells us otherwise.
The photographic image, by its nature, imposes limits that separate what is in the photograph from what is not. This selection affects not only the context of the image but also its content, reverberating throughout the image and establishing relationships between lines and shapes of the picture and its edges.
Although there are infinite framings for a given scene, I like to think we can split framing into two types: nonfunctional and functional.
The building in this image establishes a strong visual relationship with the edges of the photograph. Instead of the traditional frontal view, which benefits the building and gives us the more objective version of its representation – because it allows us to measure and compare – this foreshortening reduces the empty space around the building as much as possible. It is in this tense relationship between the limits of the building and the limits of the framing that lies the expressiveness of this photograph.
This is a paradigmatic example of a functional framing. The image structure starts at the edges towards the center. While it is obvious that buildings, sidewalks, and sky continue beyond the frame, the world of this photograph is contained within this frame.
In this other case, the framing is clearly non-functional and appears where the photograph ends. The image structure begins at the center and extends toward its limits. Just as these buildings, roads, cars, and electric poles fit into the landscape, so does the structure of photography imply a world that continues beyond its limits.
Reducing the complexity of framing to these two large groups can create the erroneous feeling that this is a simple binary choice, but recognizing these principles is a good starting point towards a more conscious framing.
(…) I’m doing so many things and exploring some new and amazing ways to approach photography that I feel this is the perfect moment to collect my thoughts and share my experiences.
Starting a blog in 2019 is both strange and motivating. In 2004, while building the first version of my website, I started a blog I kept for about two years. Except for some downtime, I’ve always tried to maintain an active online presence beyond the website, especially because I’ve always enjoyed having everything separate and not wanting a visual diary mixed with my commercial work. Looking back, I realize that this compartmentalization made no sense and today nothing gives me more pleasure than eliminating the boundaries between my commercial and my personal work.
After having tried almost all platforms available over the last 15 years mainly for purely technological curiosity, blogging remains the most appropriate tool for what I hope to share here. This year I came back to school both as a PhD student and as a teacher at the College of Fine Arts – University of Arizona. At the same time I’m doing so many things and exploring some new and amazing ways to approach photography that I feel this is the perfect moment to collect my thoughts and share my experiences.
I know what you’re thinking… “Why should I listen to this guy talk about photography?”
As my friends well know I’m not into chest-pumping but I guess this is one of these moments where some context is needed:
1. I started with photography exactly 30 years ago, and since 1993 I’ve been fortunate enough to shoot almost every day.
2. I’m a professional photographer since 2004, just three years after graduating from architecture school and realizing that it wasn’t for me (ironically I’ve been shooting architecture all my life).
3. I have a Master of Fine Arts degree from Barcelona University, where I was the best student.
4. I’ve been teaching photography since 2006. I taught at all levels and ages. From 6-year-olds to World Press Photo winners.
5. During almost 10 years I’ve held product development and training positions at Nikon and Leica.
6. I directed a photography school for 2 years in Portugal and I taught in Spain, Italy, Germany, and Russia.
7. I’ve been involved in several international photography events as a portfolio reviewer, lecturer, curator, and workshop instructor.
8. I’m an avid collector with a special interest in 1980-2000’s photography.
9. I usually don’t discuss megapixels and brands. I’m not a gear freak but I shoot with lots of different cameras from my smartphone to a 8×10.