Bio. Offer us a short, snappy (not-copied-from-your-website or any publication), fun biography. Who are you?
I’m a photographer from Uruguay. I started my career by studying Computer Engineering and then completed a Master’s in Biomedical Engineering. While working in Magnetic Resonance Imaging, taking pictures of the insides of people, I suddenly realized that it could be interesting to experiment on the outside, too, so I did.
In order to make a living as a photographer in a small country, I had to shoot all kinds of things. My main area of work has been advertising, but I’ve made images for a Facebook game, fashion campaigns, and a few weddings; I’ve also worked as a still photographer for movies, editorials, architecture, and portraits.
Since I am very introspective, I have explored many ways to learn about myself and others. I studied astrology for a couple of years. Lately I’ve been experimenting with my voice and with music as a means of expression.
Beginning. Do you remember the first time you picked up a camera? The first picture you took? Tell us a story about your beginning.
I visited Japan when I was 25 years old—for a conference to present my work on knee MRIs. It was my first time in Asia, and everything was so unusual that it almost felt as though I was visiting new planet.
Previously, I just took photos of things that caught my attention because they were beautiful. But in Japan, it was different: I wanted to take photos to remember not what I saw but what I felt. It was like I wanted to save the memories of the feelings, especially this state of continuous awe and stimulation. I don’t think I was very successful in recording the feelings, but the pictures from that trip were my first real photographs: I took time to compose and to consider what I wanted my images to convey. When I returned to Chicago, where I was living at that time, I got my first SLR camera and I started learning photography by myself with the help of the internet.
Becoming. Can you identify when you first started calling yourself a photographer —when you felt comfortable naming yourself as such? How did you morph from someone who takes pictures to “photographer”?
I think this change took place when I got my first job as a photographer in 2005 at a very original local magazine about design and culture called Pimba!. They gave me the space to experiment and supported me tremendously by engaging with all the crazy ideas that I proposed to them, such as taking a picture of the editorial team “flying” by using a trampoline. This creative freedom and heartwarming support helped me to believe in my work and to feel comfortable being called a photographer. I am really grateful to them for that. I have more issues with the word “artist”—but that’s a different question.
Being. What are you working on now? Where? How? Why?
Right now I am working on a personal project about Arboretum Lussich in Uruguay. This is a forest with more than 400 species of trees that was created by one single man at the beginning of the 20th century, in a place that used to be just rocks and dunes.
This project started with the idea of changing my way of looking at the world, my way of photographing. After working in advertising for so many years I felt that I was taking photographs in “automatic” mode, trying to meet the requirements of the commercial world, shooting for a clean and almost perfect look.
The need for a more pure and authentic gaze led me to search for it in nature, where I can find the peace and solitude that I need to connect with myself. I arrived at this forest one day and was captivated; I decided that I would go there again and again until I could achieve a personal aesthetic shift.
I have been photographing this forest since 2016 and, thanks to a government grant, I will have a solo exhibition at Museo Zorrilla from December 4, 2018 – February 16, 2019; if you happen to be in Montevideo around that time, please come. The project is called “Shinrin-yoku,” which means Forest Bathing in Japanese. This practice consists of immersing yourself in the forest, attending fully to all of your senses. It has proven benefits to health and well-being. As part of my project, I organized a collective Forest Bathing at the Arboretum this year; roughly 100 people participated in a forest meditation, a walk and a closing concert. This event was a way to integrate my various interests and to share them with others.
Blown-away. Show us the last image that completely took your breath away (contemporary or historical—depending on where you’ve been looking). What do you love about it?
This photo was taken by Matilde Campodónico, one of my favorite Uruguayan photographers. It really surprised me because it’s an island that’s right in the middle of the city. I see it every day and I’ve photographed it many times but it is just so different through her eyes — it doesn’t even seem like the same place. I just love how it is full of movement and emotion — with the stormy water and the seagulls flying — it contrasts starkly with how I envision this place. Also, my own pictures of this island tend to be rather calm and static.
Between. Discuss the relationship between you and your subjects (whether people, objects, land). What is the nature of your relationship with the things you photograph or film?
What I like about photographing is that it gives me the opportunity to be really present. This is intensified when I shoot in nature because I need to have confidence in my intuition. I have to trust that if something catches my attention, even if it may not look especially interesting in the exact moment I am “called” by it, I still have to listen, and maybe just wait. I have learned the importance of patience, because I have witnessed how the light can totally transform a landscape in an instant and I need to be ready to press the shutter. That moment, when everything comes together magically to reveal a dreamy scene, is just a fraction of a second but it is the end result of a longer process.
Beyond. Tell us about a future project or challenge that you hope to tackle. (Feel free to answer this question literally or figuratively).
I’d love to have more time to explore so many things! On the top of my list are painting and writing, but I would also love to learn to play instruments and to learn more languages. The list goes on and on. I’ll probably have to accept that I’ll have to leave some of these activities for my next lives.
In terms of photography, I would love to try to shoot a storytelling project, but I’ll have to wait for the story to find me because I don’t have anything clear in mind yet.
Better. How do you work towards continuous improvement, on honing your craft?
Ironically, I sometimes feel that I get better at photographing when I stay away from my camera for a while. It’s like the distance lets me come back to it in a different way. I also like experimenting with new lenses and post-production styles to challenge myself and to avoid repetition, sameness.
Business. Can you talk a bit about the business versus the art of photography?
For many years I photographed only for business, interpreting what my clients wanted and trying to make images that satisfied their requirements. Working in this way for so long without shooting any personal work distanced me from my own voice. When I finally made the decision to start working on a personal project, I found it really challenging. I had the idea that in order to create art, it had to come from deep within so I asked myself basic questions: Who am I? What do I like? Is there any topic that resonates with me so deeply that I can make a long-term commitment to it? The answers were really hard to find and I started many projects that I abandoned half-way through. And then I found the forest.
It’s interesting that as I started showing my own work, new and different clients started coming my way, many of them with assignments that were aligned with my personal search in nature. Business and art can nurture each other because both can foster creativity and both require technical practice and improvement. But I’ve learned that having some ongoing personal work is essential to keep a clear sense of self and to create art from an authentic place.
Balance. When you are not photographing, what are you doing that keeps you grounded? What (else) do you do for fun?
I am an early riser and I enjoy grounding activities in the morning. I like practicing yoga because it helps me focus and calm my anxious mind for a while.
I also find joy in cooking for my friends, especially healthy vegetarian food. I love using different spices from around the world as they allow me to travel via flavours. Pumpkin soup or different kinds of curries are my favorites.