“I take my time. Borrowing a distinction used by Jeff Wall to identify photographers, I see myself as less of a hunter, tracking down and capturing images, and more of a farmer, cultivating them over time through careful planning.”
Oscar Ciutat. Born in 1975, Oscar Ciutat is a contemporary photographer from Spain, currently based in Barcelona. He has attended several photography workshops, but is mainly a self-taught photographer.
Oscar Ciutat was born in Barcelona. He got interested in photography in 2001 while studying Computer Engineering at the Polytechnic University of Catalonia. Five years later, he started collaborating with Barcelona Photobloggers, a non-profit organization that regularly produces collective exhibitions in galleries and other institutions. His work has been published in magazines and media around the world, such as Esquire, L’Espresso, My Modern Metropolis, and Fubiz.
Interview with Oscar Ciutat
Oscar, what was your first camera and photographic experience?
Although I played with my father’s Voigtländer a couple of times as a child, I never showed any interest in photography until I attended university and got a little digital point-and-shoot which cost me an arm and a leg. From then on, I was hooked.
Why did you become a photographer?
At different points in life, I tried my hand at drawing, painting and music and failed miserably at all three, so I guess the next logical step was to try my hand at photography, which, a priori, seemed easier to master. I don’t know if I’m any good, but at least I’ve stuck with it longer than I thought I would.
What does photography mean to you?
Photography for me is a release, an outlet, and, sometimes, a source of frustration.
Which photographer has inspired you most and why?
I guess I’m inspired more by particular series rather than by a photographer’s entire body of work. Hiroshi Sugimoto’s “Seascapes” and Ori Gersht’s “Rear Window” are two clear examples.
What’s your favorite photography quote?
I’m not much of a fan of quotes because they easily turn into inflexible dogmas by virtue of being repeated over and over. Nevertheless, the following excerpt from a recent interview with Phillip Toledano really resonates with me:
“Do exactly the thing you want to do. It’s really hard, to separate yourself from the gravitational pull of the norm, and the gravitational pull of what sells. For me, that’s the only way that you’re ever going to be successful.”
How would you describe your photographic language?
I take my time. Borrowing a distinction used by Jeff Wall to identify photographers, I see myself as less of a hunter, tracking down and capturing images, and more of a farmer, cultivating them over time through careful planning.
What’s important in order to develop an own photographic voice?
Although there are some motifs I constantly keep coming back to, I’m not sure I have a style as such. I guess, eventually, one develops a personal language without even being aware of it.
What do you consider to be the axis of your work?
Having lived in a big city all my life, I’m naturally drawn to the urban landscape and its inhabitants in the broadest sense. I’m particularly interested in how a place shapes those who live in it and how those who live in a place establish emotional ties with it. In terms of technique, I’m definitely a subscriber to the “no bells and whistles” school of thought.
What qualities and characteristics does a good photographer need?
Photography, like any other creative activity, takes a great deal of perseverance.
What does a photo need to be a great photo in your eyes?
I need to relate to it in some way, whether it be aesthetically, conceptually or emotionally.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your photographic projects?
I’m inspired by personal experiences and other artist’s works.
“The project started by chance back in 2008. I was visiting the local zoo, which I hadn’t been to in ages, and started taking pictures of the captive animals, just like everyone else was doing. My attention kept being drawn to their eyes, which, to me, seemed very sad, and I ended focusing my camera on them. I was intrigued by whether my impressions would be apparent to other people in the images. I wondered if that popular old saying, referring to humans, that goes “the eyes are the windows to the soul” could hold true for animals as well.”
“I saw deep in the eyes of the animals the human soul look out upon me.”
Henry David Thoreau
What kind of photography equipment and photographic supplies do you use?
Although I own some film cameras, I’m a digital guy for convenience’s sake. That said, I very much prefer the colors that one can get from film right out of the box.
What’s your favorite website about photography?
Nowadays, I mostly get my photography fix via social media, which is where all the interesting people are right now. I still follow a few blogs the old-fashioned way, though. Two sites I’m fond of are Lenscratch and Feature Shoot, which helped to get my work out there a few years ago.
What photography book would you recommend?
I think that Mary Warner Marien’s “Photography: A Cultural History” is a good starting point.
Which advice would you give someone who wants to become a professional photographer?
I’m not a professional photographer so I can’t offer any advice on that area but, whether you make a living out of photography or not, I think it’s essential to know who and where your potential audience is. It took me a lot of time to understand this.