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“Photography is the essential part of a triangle in a dialogue composed by the creator and the viewer in which it is the visual language plaid by both consciousness and subconscious in a game of lights and mirrors.”

Gonzalo Bénard (born in 1969 in Portugal) is a visual artist currently based in Paris, France. Previously he had studied photography in Lisbon and Barcelona. Gonzalo Bénard is represented by EYEMAZING Editions.

Artist statement: “Creating. Dialogue. Oneness. Humankind. Nature. Life. And Human Non-Sense.” These words are those that crop up most in Gonzalo Bénard’s mind-bank, in both his consciousness and his subconscious. Creating is the result of the need to express. The need to express through art and to create a dialogue between living beings; to lead to the oneness of humans and their surroundings. Man-Woman-Animal. Dialogue leading to oneness of gender, ritual, rite. Dialogue about life. Dialogue as creator, as observer, as author, as part of oneness. Part of the world. Part of life.

When writing, painting and drawing were no longer fulfilling Gonzalo Bénard as a creator, photography came unexpectedly into his life. Gonzalo let it come so his expression could flow, his creativity could come out pre-digested. Playing with light and feelings, cultures and people, without distracting colours, backgrounds or clothing.

Often using himself as part of the oneness, being in front and behind the camera, gives him a better sense of the dialogue. Gonzalo Bénard can create and be involved in the rituals and cultures of life. As oneness. As nature. As light itself.

Gonzalo Bénard is a creator of human portraits. Is a creator of portraits of persons. In the black. And in the white.

Series “Oneness” from Gonzalo Bénard

Image from the series Oneness from Gonzalo Benard

 

“I’m one of those people who have so-called “difficult mornings”. A period of time between “waking up” and “being awakened”. A period of time when the conscience remains inactive, so not filtered. It is in this period of time when we create, when everything flows through our subconscious as if it were free.”

 

Bizarre portrait shot by Gonzalo Benard

 

Gonzalo Bénard, what was your first camera and photographic experience?

With 13 years, I got a job (paint my father’s backyard walls) to be able to buy a Kodak instamatic, later on I got an Agfa Silette and a Asahi Pentax, which I still have and use. When I was 14 years old, I was invited to do my first exhibition with the photographs I’d taken, with them cut in some surreal collages over graphs’ paper.

Why did you become a photographer?

I’m a visual artist and I’ve been using several means of expression, from drawing, painting, video to photography, and maybe photography is the mean that fulfills me the most. I feel free using it, maybe because I always had full academic studies in drawing and painting with great masters, not in photography so I wasn’t directly influenced. 

What does photography mean to you?

Photography is the essential part of a triangle in a dialogue composed by the creator and the viewer in which it is the visual language plaid by both consciousness and subconscious in a game of lights and mirrors.

Which photographer has inspired you most and why?

Robert Mapplethorpe, Joel-Peter Witkins, Diana Arbus or Roger Ballen, all of them broke boundaries in bringing the taboo to beauty, in composition, in light and in shapes. 

Patti Smith discusses “Just Kids”, a memoir of early 1970s Manhattan and of her friendship with artist Robert Mapplethorpe, at National Portrait Gallery.

What’s your favorite photography quote?

“I always thought of photography as a naughty thing to do – that was one of my favorite things about it, and when I first did it, I felt very perverse.”

Diane Arbus

How would you describe your photographic language?

I’ve been always a “voyeur” of people, their personality, their behavior, the personal and collective consciousness, their cultures and the way they react to life, so I shoot what’s beyond the persons, in a most conceptual way to not distract (no colors) and in their honesty (no cloths on) even when I do just a face portrait.

What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?

The most important in the creative world is to be honest with oneself, only that way you can express and create freely, and this is how I achieve my own language, expressing myself not depending on a collective consciousness, but in my own subconscious (free of filters, or as Freud called, “superego”).

 

Photo called Chicken Head by Gonzalo Benard

 

What do you consider to be the axis of your work?

I’ve been working only in square format since ages with the classic black & white, to keep it focused, balanced and free of unnecessary details (no backgrounds) that can distract the viewers and people with whom I dialogue through the photograph.

What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?

Most of all: a good eye and vision of life, able to pay attention to the smallest details.

What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?

A photograph is a mean of expression for me, being the main subject of a dialogue between the artist and the viewer, so most important is that subject is able to make the other react to answer and make the viewer think.

Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?

Mostly in music, literature and human’s non-sense.

What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?

Canon for digital and Pentax for analogue.

What’s your favorite website about photography?

I’m editor of one and curator of another, so I go directly to the photographer’s websites to not be influenced by others, apart from some random interviews with photographers.

What photography book would you recommend?

Can I recommend mine as it just came out? “Oneness” and “B Shot by a Stranger”, both available at Blurb.com.

Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?

Learn everything you can learn about, pay attention to all the details you can, but shoot only when you’re able to forget all that you’ve learned and saw, so you can feel the rapture, not the capture.

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