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15 applause: Óscar Molina


Óscar Molina (Madrid 1962) is a photographer and a photography teacher. Music is part of his daily activities. Developed his first projects in the 90s, including Objetos, Caja de acuarelas, Fotografías de un diario and Silencio abierto.

His work has been published in books such as El fondo, the monograph Photovision N. 31, dedicated to the project Photolatente or more publications about Fotografías de un diario such as Photobolsillo N. 26, La Imagen Latiente, Hallar Las Siete Diferencias, or Volume 4 of Lo Mínimo collection. Among his latest published projects are Petite Histoire Du Temps and Ammonites, made both for the Musée Gassendi in Geological Reserve of Haute-Provence. He has also published articles on the practice of photography, like Para Qué Fotografiar, Entre La Intención, El Azar Y La Resonancia or Photolatente, Tres Historias Y Un Proyecto.

You may find his work is in major public collections as the collection Genres and trends of the XXI century, IVAM collection, ARTIUM Museum photography funds, photography collection of the Community of Madrid, Musée Gassendi and numerous private collections.

For 15 years he has taught a workshop on photography and the creativity entitled Behind the Camera in foundations, museums, schools and universities. Since 1992 organizes and coordinates specialized courses with internationally renowned photographers in an annual Photography Workshop in Cabo de Gata.

He currently lives and works between Almeria and Madrid, Spain.


Project: Petite historie du temps

1. Your first contact with photography.
It was when I was still a child, about 10 years. I had seen the photos that a relative made. Those papers with images so similar to reality had left me so captivated that I kept asking my parents for a camera. And that was, along with a spool (as it was then) in twelve black and white shots, my birthday gift.

I remember finishing the roll in a sigh, my grandfather next to the hovel in a background of shadows and trees in autumn. My mother sitting on a wooden chair after laundry. The long, empty Manuel Ferrero street. Two goldfish in the old garden jar. My bike. A total of twelve photographs. But it turned out that the film, developing, the copies, everything was too expensive for the family economy. So they told me to settle for filmless camera, to look through the viewfinder, shoot if I wanted to, and then tell them the photos I had taken. So that's what I did. After these unique photo shoots sometimes told my parents or my grandparents what I had done, or wrote the photos so I would not forget the pictures. Fun and frustrating at the same time. Images on its return trip spanning the viewfinder and the lens, only to find my retina, my memory. In their own way those were latent images forever. Trying to evoke them with words. And so I began, with those twelve photographs and then with a camera without film. So I think my first contact with photography were closer to the words of the images, or rather, images that were followed by words.

It took at least ten years until I could afford my film and take real pictures,and almost five more years until I decided to make of photography my profession. Then, photographs, words and texts came together on projects such as Fotografías De Un Dirario, Caja De Acuarelas and, more recently, Ammonites. And other works in wich, unlike my principles, I use film without a camera, and I invite others to the frame, the time and place of taking the picture, and then to create and share images, words and texts, as the project Photolatente.


Project: Photolatente
Envelope of the second edition Bellamatic- Photolatente

2. What are you working on now?
I am working on the variation IV of Caja De Acuarelas. It will be a box shaped edition, like variation III ((http://oscarmolina.com/omesgacuarelasj.html) but with a very different content and proposal. I prefer not to tell how it will be until it is published, I hope by the end of 2013.

I am also writing the book on the workshop Detrás de la Cámara, wich I've been giving for 15 years. During this time many of the more than one thousand students who have attended have asked for a book about the workshop content, and finally I decided to write it. I think I write for everyone, as it is a book about the creative process, which concerns all people who want to develop their creative potential, not only to make better pictures, also to be original in their jobs, what they do and how they live their lifes.


Project: AMMONITES
Open Ammonites box (French edition)

3. What will yor work on next?
I always have ideas and works in "outbox" but they are so many and require too much time, I guess some will never see the light.

Among the upcoming works I would like to publish there is a book dedicated to my collection of laboratory drawings and some short texts on photography in general, but also about music or other things. I've done most of these texts and drawings in the laboratory while developing copies or negatives, or waiting times between one image and another. I hav always found the chemical process in photography, at least as I practiced, surrounded by juicy times and spaces of creative potential

Years ago I made a project in Geological Reserve of Haute-Provence, invited by the Musée Gassendi, entitled Petite histoire du temps (Brief History of Time). Thousands of photographs evoking a time in which both the author and the viewer participate, and is linked to other times,... the geological, cultural, historical or even a quiet afternoon picnic. The initial idea was a book. There was an exhibition and presentation in France, but it remains to publish the book.

Like I said before, there are other projects, but I work slowly, the development of each work takes me a long time... for example long time ago I started thinking about a book with my only color photographs, a collection of small and unique images in color ... but do not know if I will ever make it, maybe one day... who knows.


Project: Petite histoire du temps

4. What work of another photographer you wish you had done.
None.

I think we're just one possible author. When I discover a work of another author and connect deeply with it, I do from my experience as one of the many spectators that I can be, and I say to myself: I would like to have done this work. But it is an illusion of the ego, which has little or no interest from the point of view of my creativity as an author. It would not have been possible and will not be. And I do not think that it is about that.

What is desirable is experience intense vibration, connecting with the author and the work I have in front of me, be it a photograph, painting, poem, music... and of course the ability to learn from it, to grow, to be better. I speak in the workshops of the term "resonance" to explain this extraordinary experience, which has nothing to do with the desire to do work that is not for me to do. From the experience of listening and inner movement I do believe in the only possibility of moving towards the author that I am.

I think your question expects a name yet, and if you could answer and give names but from the point of view of a viewer fascinated by many works and authors. From the perspective of the viewer that, first of all, feels and lives the experience, and then tells the author, look, this work is in an intense and deep level of being, creativity, integrity and development. And that is when I feel a commitment to work with intensity, my own intensity contained in my limits as an author. But that is something that must say my viewer, the listener... (the viewer or viewers I am) my creator, who says... (to the only creator I am), and not vice versa. I find this very important. Your question talks about a very common trap because usually these terms are reversed. The one who speaks to the creator I am, is the viewer that I can be. I think it must be so, and if it happens the other way around, is a trick of the ego. That would explain, among other things, why some authors’ photographs are substitutable for the other’s, photographs of little originality, though sometimes rare, new or spectacular.

Giving you a name would be a false answer, too narrow and limited. If I shall enumerate all or most authors that fascinate me, the interview would be too long. I am not interested in giving those names, but the ideas and spaces for reflection. And then each must apply them to his own creative experience.


Project: Hallar las siete diferencias

5. A picture of you.
Only fotografías de un diario would take about 80,000, maybe more, and all of them are important. And so in other projects. Most are especially essential to know what to discard, that huge amount of shots, initially worthless, of which we can say, just for the moment, they are unsuccessful shots. Those are disposable material. Underlie and support others I think are worth, they are very few. But if some sustain others, then all are necessary, and that value is not in each of the pictures, good or bad, right or wrong compound, beautiful or ugly... but in the general text, understood in its most symbolic sense, revealing its meaning, the general sense of an entire work. The creative problem does not begin in the pictures themselves, but in the discovery or creation of a structure for each job and then, each photograph must conform to this structure (and not vice versa) and meet all the precepts, whether technical, aesthetic, ... whatever. Given this, and given that this framework should eventually be filled with photographs (or words, or musical notes, etc. ..) I'm more interested in advancing my ability to discard pictures rather than produce or add more pictures, recognize what is worth and what is not.

The photos appear in the file when a new text appears and from there, a new project. Often you do not need to take more photographs. They are already in the file, but before it did not have the glasses (the text) to see and recognize them. And if they existed, there probably formed part of the bad, failed, disposables. They were invisible. What I mean is that many times more pictures are needed, but original ideas, recognize the contexts of work that are unique to us and give meaning to our photographs, those already made and those we will do in the future.

There are several photographs that might name to give you a more specific answer. Maybe some of those first twelve photographs. I have particular fondness for the image of the street Manuel Ferrero, because it is the first I ever took. Or years later, the image I first saw appear in my little yellow bucket, the first negative developed by myself. It could be a photograph which, from the wall of an exhibition hall, definitely boosted my decision to devote to photography. Many more, but we will not specify any, let them evoked, let the reader imagine them...


Project: Fotografías de un diario

6. A photo of another photographer.
It's the same as in the previous question. Sorry, but I'm a little reluctant to these questions.

I could say this or that image, by this or that important photographer in my career, but it would be a castrated answer by that part of the question that contains the idea of "a", slightly narrow from my point of view. I can not say "a" picture, because there are many levels in the possible answer. For example the first picture I saw in my life was a family picture taken by my uncle Jesús. In a way it all started there. All that ended some time later with that roll of twelve photographs. While becoming a teenager I loved the postcards of landscapes with sunsets or moonlight reflected on the sea, and now, many years later, I follow closely an author pointing with gold in remote areas and silent in nature. Meanwhile there were more pictures, a picture again, and again, dozens of photographs very significant for me. I am unable to say a single author, less a single photograph. Because it's not just about pictures, but about words and music, lots of music, paintings and objects, film and poetry... The last photographs I've seen hanged from an exhibition hall in Madrid. A few weeks ago. It was not an important meeting, but yes the pleasure of meeting and enjoying some photographs, some of which did not know.


Project: ser espectador
Fotografía sobre una obra de herman de vries


Project: ser espectador
Fotografía sobre una obra de herman de vries

7. An unforgettable exhibition.
In the year 81 in Madrid was held an exhibition entitled "Mirrors and Windows". I was 19, just began to study photography and spent several evenings a week to visit exhibitions of painting, sculpture, go to concerts or art shows in general, and of course photography. I went several times to this exhibition, in the Juan March Foundation. It gathered american photographers’ works that had been made in the 60s and 70s, so it was a very limited, but I was starting and found in that exhibition a dimension in photography had not yet even guessed. It was exciting to see or the first time copies of unknown photographers to me, that later formed part of my influences and inspirations. There were masters like Gibson, Friedlander, Diane Arbus or Caponigro... among others.


Project: Objetos

8. Your top three reference photographers
My mother, my granfather and my aunt.

Because they were the first people that showed me photographs. Those misterious and magic papers. Uncle Jesús too, we can add a fourth photographer. I love to remember those first photographs that one day impacted me so much, in such a strange way, that "poisoned" me with the will to be a photographer, when I was still very young. Those photographs are there, in boxes, but also deep in my journey as photographer and photo viewer. Maybe one day I will publish them, or I will use in one way or another, because they are the origin of all the others.

I guess that's not the answer you wanted. Maybe you imagined recognized names and famous photographers. I think I will continue to be rebellious in my answers, especially to satisfact and resolve the curiosity around them. The answer would have concluded several lines above mentioning three of the many photographers who have influenced us all, or at least me.

9. Your top three books to keep in a desert island.
If the island were really desert, the last thing I would get are books. There are other things clearly more necessary. And if the island were not really desert, ie, if there were food and native beautiful women, sunny beaches and warm waters, I would not take books either, as it would be the least necessary. Every time I make a move I hate having to carry so many books. In the last one, that is also quite recent, I gave out about 500 to not have to carry them. And for the ones that were left, it seemed that there were not enough boxes in the world. I don’t want to take any book to a desert island, not a single one. Three, even less. I prefer some paper and a pencil to write, draw pictures or compose short poems for my beloved. That I would love to.


Project: Zoo (First series)

10. A classic and a contemporary Spanish book.
I don’t know if it would be classic or contemporary, but I'll mention a book that does not exist altought it should: "Koldo Chamorro", a book dedicated to the life and work of this master who unfortunately left us. It could be large, dense, as its unknown work. Weighing kilos, kilos of knowledge because his work is immense, and would be a great legacy for present and future generations of photographers who have been lucky to meet him. This answer could be on both sides of the question, so I avoid having to take another title.


Koldo Chamorro. Soria 1982

11. A classic and a contemporary international book.
To follow in my line of answers I will mention another book that was never written but that would be great if it had been: "Journal intime de la fin du Millénaire", by Christian Janicot. I would love this book not only for its content, extraordinary and beautiful, but for the creation process, and for its unique structure. Its author is living, and hopefully he will be for many many years more. So maybe one day this book will exist. Janicot has written another interesting book containing hundreds of screenplays that never got to the screen: "Anthologie du cinéma l'invisible".

12. You have to keep track of…
Juanan Requena, a young photographer who lives in Murcia. Although little known, he has the spirit, courage, sensibility and intelligence to be a great author. He is also a good and beautiful person. His website: http://nodetenerse.com


Juanan Requena. Black & Write

13. The current photography scene in Spain is...
They made me a similar question recently: what was my opinion on the "photographic system". Obviously the question did not concern the "zone system" (t.n. as in lightning) but to "the zones of the system." I'll expand the scope of the question so I will consider the areas of contemporary photography in general. Thus we can talk about a larger panorama that includes different quadrants of the issue, as I think that your question wants to focus on this. It is a complex question and so the answer, in this space, will be an outline of ideas that should be broader and denser.

From a cultural and social quadrant taking pictures has become a daily activity like tying the shoelaces, brushing teeth or riding a bus. That is not only a Spanish phenomenon, but a global one. Not just taking but also publishing photographs is something extremely easy for hundreds of millions of people. It is complex to assess to what extent this affects professional photography. To me it is obvious that taking pictures do not necessarily means being a photographer, although this may not be so clear to some. The photographic devices, plus the possibilities of digital tools, further diluted the narrow but radical line that differences the creative from the merely produced, original, new or rare. To put it in another way, if since long time it was relatively easy to execute photographic images (remember the famous Kodak slogan "You press the button, we do the rest") now even the youngest people, or those who never even touched a camera or had nothing to do with creativity more tan doing the shopping list, can get "wow" pictures that once published get immediately applauded in social networks. That's only a part of the photographic scene: a continuous confusion between the idea of executing more or less striking, rare, spectacular or innovative images, and creative and original interpretation of the world through genuine photographic images. Obviously the balance is leaning towards the easy side: the execution of decorative images of the world. In that sense photography loses the characteristic of being a quality outcome of practice and creativity but instead gains a quantitative dimension: a huge number of people taking pictures, many pictures, more pictures, a product of masses, a massive communication medium, popular and vulgar. Number of "likes", a profitable market, etc.. But not everything is negative in this quadranta, because the popular "explosión" towards photography has also a good side and can bring good things in the future, even if this future is still distant and uncertain.

If we look at photography from the individual point of view, the scenario is more encouraging. New generations of authors emerge with the strength and intensity of youth and with commitment to photography and their own personal visions. It is comforting to see how those promises of photographers (and artists) join the "familiy" of those, older than them and with a career behind, who remain intensely committed to quality. I mention again Juanan Requena among young people starting, or David Jimenez, among the other group. And more on the edge towards which photography is going, or at least some photographers, authors already established and important but still young and with an extraordinary creative energy such as Javier Codesal. I only mention three, but there are others, of course ... my list would not be huge, but yes well nourished... they are there, working, sometimes in silence. Some of them, even with years of work behind have not yet published a single book. But their work grows.

If we talk about photographic devices then we can state that the digital just joins the previous technologies and will finally substitute them. I think that this is what will happen, although analog photography will still exist as a vintage process. The almost-disappearance of analog photography will be in fact a result of needs and interests rather an evolutionary process of the nature of the photographic process itself seen from other quadrants, such as the author's photography or from quadrants where ethic or morality provide any justification. Concretely, systemic dynamics that in its application to photography ("the photographic" and more) have been imposed on the evolution of photography and its particular devices as tools for making images, affecting its past history and the one that, very probably, will not happen. I’m not sayng that this is bad as a whole, it's just a new tool, but I find it interesting to think about how changes in some quadrant affect the others and if this is definitely good and what the consequences there are or will be in other quadrants. It can be argumented that something similar has already occurred similarly in previous historical moments, an example is the advent of printing or the appearance of analog photography itself as a tool to illustrate... etc. however what I question is the quality and nature of current systemic dynamics (capitalism towards hypercapitalism) as a cause of evolutions or collapses, and changes in recent decades compared to other historical moments.

And here we come to the area of photography that I am more worried about, and that is affected by the general crisis provoked by an instability at systemic level that direcly affects the world of subjective photography. The problem is basically how objective systemic values are attempting to substitute as premises that include only the growth or survival in their quadrant, without considerating the subsistence - sometimes even denying the existence or minimizing it - of other quadrants: that means, to make a comparison, it's like the development of a form of cancer in which cells are organized according to their own growth, eliminating or endangering the overall system containing it: the patient's body. Photography, meant as art, craft or practice applied, is affected, like everything else, and and enjoy the opportunities, but also suffer the problems when considered in this sistemic quadrant. Regarding opportunities photography has acquired a value (basically market value) unimmaginable years ago. On the side of problems it's precisely where this objective value (and other systemic values) is imposed on the subjective values contained in the quadrants mentioned above which have to do with the dimensions of creative and artistic quality, ethics and morals, sometimes hiding them or letting them occupy secundary places. Photographic agents (galleries, exhibitions, institutions, curators, cultural managers) also join and feed to the problem as long as they accept, support and ca¬use (because of their interests) the premises to justify certain hierarchies of values from sustained power hierarchies in this system. More power, more horizontal growth, more market, more money, more fame, more visibility, ... seem to be the predominant values that fuel growth and horizontal expansión, that more and more is lacking of depth.

One example, among many others, of possible consequences of this. Author's photographs are beautiful, witty or dramatic. Dramatic or socially engaged. Interesting. Justified with some theoretical texts. They sell well. Once the product has been created it is installed in the system and starts a horizontal development that enables a growth - sometimes exponentially - in that quadrant. So not only its work will continue to sell well, but at an increased price. The author, the books and the works enter in the world of rankings. Everybody is happy. After decades, or months (everythig goes fast now) the work, looked from other quadrants is exactly on the same line as it was in the beginning, with little or no progress in intensity or depth. Looking at it in the systemic quadrant, it works, and within it, is has grown and gained fame and importance. That means, it has developed horizontally. This, in principle, does not seem bad at all, because it is, in part, desirable, but at the same time it can lead to certain problems that break the equilibrium and create confusion. What I find questionable is comparing the development at systemic level with the development - nonexistent in many cases - in other quadrants. That is, when there is, or somebody wants to create, confusion between the "horizontal" and the "vertical". This is done by honouring authors and works as masters and masterpieces, when actually the vertical development of the work has not taken place and therefore does not justify those mentions. Do not forget that this development at the systemic level is only, at most, a quarter of what is desirable and that smartness has its place and value, but it is something different than genius. Within the values of that systemic quadrant people are educated and their sensitibility trained against this fallacy, that only justifies and is justified by the interests of a system that protects itself and by individual or group interests. This is not very encouraging, it's a fertile ground for all kinds of crises, including the crisis of creativity as the one we are currently experiencing.


Project: Fotografías de un diario

14. What is in excess and what is missing in photography, today.
Too much stomach. It lacks brain and a little bit more of sex. I'll explain you in another interview to avoid prolonging this too much.


Project: Hallar las siete diferencias

15. Who do you want to be as a photographer.
The answer has to do with what is written in the fourth question. This is not who I want to be but who I am and who I can be. I cannot be other than I am. And that includes me as a photographer. And who I can be and who I am probably relates to the four zones or quadrants of the response 13. I am already, potentially, the photographer I want to be, but at the same time I know that I still have a long way to go. Thank goodness! There is a place (which is not outside) I think everyone would like to reach. Jose Angel Valente says: "To create is to create a state of readiness, in which the first thing created is the emptyness, an empty space. The only thing the artist creates is perhaps the space for creation. And in the space of creation there is nothing (so that something can be created in it). Creating from nothing is the absolute principle of all creations."

I try to walk down there. Because that's where my original vision can emerge, the only personal creation tool. I call this space being myself and I think that is the source of the genuine and authentic in each of us. Only I can follow that road and head towards that place, ... well, I can turn to others, but the others are already occupied ... (like, I think, says a quote from Oscar Wilde: "Be yourself. Other positions are occupied"). Nobody is going to go for me, there are steps I have to make, or you, to be yourself, every human being can follow that way to create his real place of silence, of creation. There he will find his personal and unique vision of the world. Then there will come pictures, words, music,… the ways of being. It's there where I can take my place.

Pretending to be another is a waste of time and creative energy. Take the place of another photographer is copying, repeating and faking (oneself). Losing the dynamic center. It's a sham. I think I can be the photographer I am, but especially the one I'll be at every step, with my limitations, my silence, my questions, my doubts and certainties. In each of my breaths. My method to arrive has less and less to do with speaking, but more with listening.

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