“There is a search for the representation of oneself through the other who watches. We are photographing to know ourselves, but we do photos of others. There is a ritual of meeting people. Each viewer finds their own reflections on those faces. The portrait is an act of seduction.”
Jorge Fuembuena (born in 1979) is a contemporary photographer from Spain. He studied at the “European Institute of Design” in Madrid and at “Casa de Velázquez” (Madrid).
Jorge Fuembuena explores the boundaries of the subject and the fragile boundary that separates the individual from another, and investigates the relationship between human and his environment.
Interview with Jorge Fuembuena
Jorge, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
Travelling has played a big role in developing my passion for this medium. To tell with pictures stories that happened along the way through observation and the photographic act. My first trials had more to do with the documentary of subjective experiences, and were quite poetic in a way, small fragments with a clear component of search and introspection.
Why did you become a photographer?
There is an evolution, a shift to life in color, one degree of freedom, choice, and responsibility. What I notice is that now is that I start from an idea to address a topic and I then explore it, but still there remains a dose of intuition.
The greatest ability of photography is constructing realities, building other worlds, this is the largest central axis. Photography is a very creative medium and very complex conceptually, it seems more complex than painting, more complex than other arts, and it is more complex because of the relationship with reality, that’s the main point here.
As a photographer I work with what I know. As an artist I work with what I don’t know.
What does photography mean to you and what do you want to transmit with your pictures?
“The photograph serves to relate to others and to the world.”
I understand photography as a method to understand the world, which is dedicated to communicating our questions, our uncertainties and what we do not understand, and that the possible answers to that are endless. The photograph serves to relate to others and to the world. For me it is a creative practice, reflective and meditative.
Which photographer has inspired you most?
Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph (Fortieth-Anniversary Edition)
I am interested in the work of August Sander, Diane Arbus, and other contemporaries like Jeff Wall, Alex Soth, Rineke Dijkstra, and Paul Graham.
“Everybody has that thing where they need to look one way but they come out looking another way and that’s what people observe. You see someone on the street and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw.”
Your favorite photography quote?
Photography is a means of knowledge that allows the appreciation, being a spectator. And at the same time one can be the author with the ability to construct things. Any observation contains the observer. It’s said best by filmmaker Victor Erice:
“Seeing is being seen.”
In the end, taking photographs is a process of self-exploration. We photograph each other to get to know ourselves, even though we might take photographs of others. There is a search for the representation of oneself through the vision of others.
What photography book would you recommend?
I’d recommend for example “An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar” by Taryn Simon or any book from Wolfgang Tillmans.
Jorge Fuembuena, how would you describe your photographic voice and creative process?
On the face converge the desire to understand and to learn, the desire for recognition and identification. The face of a dialogue whose key element is the look. There is a search for the representation of oneself through the other who watches.
“The portrait is an act of seduction.”
We are photographing to know ourselves, but we do photos of others. There is a ritual of meeting people. Each viewer finds their own reflections on those faces. The portrait is an act of seduction.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
Formal decisions and intentions must be consistent. Certain jobs require a more documentary type of approach, with a more empathetic basis, without noting the presence of the photographer.
Sometimes when working with large format devices people need to pose for a long time thus generating an almost mystical liturgy. All this requires human capacity to interact and access the other.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
“You have to listen to photographs rather than look at them.”
There are authors like Georges Rousse or Abelardo Morell that are recognizable by their method and work. I’m more interested in the spectators perspective of photography. To see a photograph well one needs to close one’s eyes. The photograph must be silent.
There are photographs that scream. As Roland Barthes said, “not a matter of discretion, but of music”. You have to listen to photographs rather than look at them. For that to happen, there has to be a dialogue between the conscious and unconscious elements, between the rational and the intuitive. Then it creates a lot of horizontal dialog.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes? Especially keeping in mind the over abundance of photographic imagery in today’s society.
Staying with the essential, eliminate the anecdotal. It is important to an understanding of a concept presented as communicative content of the photograph, expressive will. Photography is basically a semantic vehicle in much of contemporary art approaches.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
Most of the time from movies and literature. Movies create possible worlds, imaginary worlds. I like to descontextualize scenarios and build a parallel world, poetic, evocative. Susan Sontag and John Berger said that every photograph speaks about the subject being photographed and the temporary cut, but it is the latter that can lead to ambiguity. Filmmakers like Ingmar Bergman have given us good times. I’m very interested in directors like Michael Haneke and Michel Gondry.
How do you stay informed about new trends in photography?
I visit exhibitions and libraries, read blogs like the “Still Searching” from the Fotomuseum Winterthur. I buy books. I like Paris Photo Festival, Arles, etc.
What do you think is more important: a perfect use of the camera or a photographic idea?
I look more at the “how”, that is, the language, let alone the “what”. The important thing is to influence “what for” more than the “why”. Whether as a means of personal expression of critical reflection, self-knowledge or understanding of the world. I’m interested in a discourse in the photographic question.
I think you can produce a synergy between what would be the pleasure and excitement of the aesthetic experience with knowledge of a concept presented as a communicative content of a photograph.
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
Sometimes I work with a film camera and optical bench using a Sinar F with a 150 mm lens. Or I use other medium format cameras, such as a Hasselblad 503 with 80 mm fixed lens. And a Gitzo tripod and Profoto lighting.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a (professional) photographer?
“Explore new ways, take risks.”
One seeks a language and that has something to do with finding a formulation (or should I say, formalization) of what is being told (I think that the “how” is usually more important than the “what”, because it indicates a position to the world). Explore new ways, take risks. The space begins because we look beyond where we are. Photography is a window that opens to the world.