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15 applause: Gustavo Alemán


After a life devoted to other professional necessities, in 2003 discovered photography. Studies the higher degree of image in the IES Ramón y Cajal of Murcia, and later in 2006 the Master of Photography in EFTI school in Madrid. In 2007 participates in Descubrimientos Photoespaña as a volunteer coordinator and production assistant. In 2009 he founded the art gallery Gatos de Marte between 2009-2012 and curated seven exhibitions of photography, with authors such as Carlos Albalá, Blanca Galindo, Olivia Bee and Salva López among others. Besides taught photographic training grants Invernadero 2011, organized by the association Cienojos. In 2013 has been selected for the portfolio review of the festival PhotoIreland, for Itinerarios Fotográficos of PA-TA-TA festival in Granada, for Encontros Novos Artists of Santiago de Compostela and the Encontros da Imagem in Braga (Portugal). In September 2013 his first solo exhibition in Kursala room Cadiz was inaugurated and was published his first photobook "(No) soy de aquí", which has been included in the exhibition "Fotos que son libros, libros que son fotos" at the Centro de Arte Reina Sofia National Museum.



(No) soy de aquí


1. Your first contact with photography.
I guess my first contact with photography was a bit like the rest. Family photos attesting birthdays, trips and summer vacations . I remember with fondness some family Polaroids, which much later I discovered that it was an imitation made by Kodak, quite popular in Spain apparently. I wish I could say I was one of those small children who played with a camera, had a laboratory bath and whose hands permanently smelled of fixer. But the truth is that nothing of that happened to me. My passion was reading and it was not until twenty-something I stumbled upon photography. At the time I worked in the family business but I wanted to study something of creative nature. The options in Murcia (Spain) were very limited. Based on other of my great loves, movies, signed up to an image course, because that name was so vague that naively thought it should be related with movies or similar. Then I saw I was totaly and fortunately wrong. It was basically about photography, and more specifically , how to make a living with it. I went there with no idea of what a diaphragm or a shutter were. But I got trapped. Soon I realized that photography was a great way to say things in diverse ways. Limitations gave photography its expressive potential and, beyond technical skills, the real challenge was finding something to say. Thosee two years studying coincided with a tremendous personal crisis and the urgent need to changes in my life and so, after finishing the studies, I left my job, my house and my city ??to go to Madrid to study photography at EFTI. I was lucky to match with great fellows from who I learned even more than my teachers. In Madrid I thought a lot, I spend a lot of time alone and read many books. I made very few photos but that step was essential to build everything what was to come.

2. What are you working on now?
After taking some time to define myself half-ironically, half-seriously, as a "former photographer", by the end of last year I finally decided to address a personal photographic work. For long had thought about it, but I was basically blocked by my insecurities. I guess what scared me the most was disappoint myself: there is a certain comfort, false comfort, in telling yourself that you need an overwhelming subject or a tremendously original idea to tell. All that, I understood later, are barriers to get going. Following the course of Specialization in Contemporary Photography I've done this year, organized by Cienojos, I realize that works actually arise from a combination of two elements: shooting with intent and consistently. I made ??many pictures, yes, but there was not a clear intention behind them and above all, was not seriously trying to tell something. I decided that I was going to try to convey in this work were certain ideas and impressions about what was nearer to me: my environment. First to come was the title. Soon, I'm not sure why. A good title fixes in your mind the kind of ideas that are covered under that statement and, after writing in a notebook (NO) SOY DE AQUÍ [I'M (NOT) FROM HERE] , I had much clearer that was the issue. As a result of stuff accumulation, ideas were debugged and I think I've been getting more images that tell what I'd like to be told.
(No) Soy de Aquí is a project of landscape photos that seeks to transcend the simple geographical description of a space to try to dig into that concept as diffuse as is the identity of a territory and the people that populate it. It is not a thesis or a scientific research, but an accumulation of signs and clues that mye be given multiple meanings and offer a very specific vision of this place. My intention is it to have interest beyond the borders of my region, of course. In that sense, I think it is useful to consider the images, rather than on Murcia, talk about my own personal beliefs about that region. I think reallity, in its enormous complexity and dynamism, does not fit in a single picture. But I think a set of pictures can express convincingly certain beliefs or views about it.



(No) soy de aquí


3. What will yor work on next?
That is a matter I'm thinking about. (No) Soy de Aquí has had a scope that could not have even remotely imagined when I started with it. The publication of the book, individual exposure, all those things have been great and of course welcome, but I feel a bit clueless. My intention is to keep working on issues that have a personal interest to me. I think the most interesting works are those that, starting from ourselves, talk about things beyond us. I do not know if because of shyness or caution, but personally I don't see myself working on projects about my life or my circumstances in a very explicit way. Also, I find it difficult to deal with things that are completely alien to me. I think the thoughtful exploration of one's own interests, which often have very different origins, is an excellent field of work for any photographic project.
What if I have clear is that I want to keep testing my skills. Similarly as in (No) Soy de Aquí, for wich used a vertical format, barely used before by me, I think those self-imposed limitations are a great tool. Handle a limited number of elements requires us to be more accurate and less scatter. One of my personal limitations when taking pictures is to photograph strangers. I do not mean to stealing photos like in street photography, which frankly I do not care too much, but portraying people not related to me. I get it with friends and the ideas I have in mind are in that way to testing myself. That, and work consistently but unhurried.



(No) soy de aquí


4. What work of another photographer you wish you had done.
I think that this question actually implies: Who would you have liked to be? I think that personal identity, with that sum of life experiences, interests, geographical and temporal location and many more variables is absolutely woven into the DNA of all valuable photographic works. I admire Alec Soth a lot, but I'm not from Minnesota, I don'thave a Colombian adopted daughter nor I often think of disappearing from the map. Similarly, although I grow long hair, buy a Rolleiflex and move to Japan, I will never be the precise combination of ingredients that result in someone as special as Rinko Kawauchi.



Rinko Kawauchi


But it is true that there are many photographers I admire and, frankly, I admit that many of these are foreigners. I guess partly due to the prejudice of thinking that the outside is better or perhaps simply because those big names have passed through a lot of filters to be so known. To not avoid entirely the question, I would love to have made ??trips as Stephen Shore in the 70s , which culminated in "American Surfaces" and "Uncommon places". I am deeply attracted by that so contradictory thing of portraying an experience, with a diacritic focus, and being invisible at the same time. Photography as a formal problem, but with a number of interesting implications while underground.

5. A picture of yours.
I hope all my good pictures are still to do but hey, from those already made I'll take the lion and palm tree. I think that picture sums exactly what I wanted to tell in the project. A friend of mine discovered where it was made, ??but I don't want to be the kind of photographer who describes what happens in his photographs and what happenned to him when he took it, so I won't tell more about it. The important thing is in the picture.


(No) soy de aquí


6. A photo of another photographer.
Only one? Well, when I read the question I thought in that famous picture of Robert Adams of the silhouette of a woman inside a house. It has a little more visual drama than usually have his pictures, but it is also a very own image, with multiple interpretations.
Although having many images on my mind, I think I still don't experience what Ernesto Sabato tells in that passage from "The Tunnel". The main character, a painter, sees at the opening of one of his exhibitions a young woman is set on a detail of one of his paintings wich he considers crucial, a detail that everyone ignores. The young womanleaves without him was able to talk to her but after a while, after finding out his identity and thinking about the way to address her, finally does in the more abrup way, and asks if she remembers the details of the picture, the key hopefully she discovered. "I remind it constantly" she replies.
I do not know if at that level, but it is not bad but aspiring to something like that: someone to remember something that is constantly valuable to us.



Robert Adams


7. An unforgettable exhibition.
"Mother Earth" , a collective exhibition at PhotoEspaña 2006. It was at the Centro Cultural de la Villa, in those huge rooms. In one side you found a lot of black and white pictures by John Davies, on the transformation of the landscape in England, very sober and serious, more interesting than exciting. Then there were some appalling images by Burtinsky, destroyed places from our planet that seemed other worlds, alien planets sons of pollution and excess.
But thet it's not why I remember the exhibition. In a tiny room there was a row of small square photographs. It was the first time I saw the work of Rinko Kawauchi and its mix of depth and simplicity impressed me much more than the terrible pictures of the great rooms. It was an instant crush and, with certain infidelity on my part, our idyll continues.

8. Your top three reference photographers.
I swear I would love to say something original, some unknown and bright name to delight you, but the truth is that my header photographers are obvious choices for me. I'm very interested in William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and Alec Soth. Both their pictures and their words about their work (except in the case of Eggleston , who usually does not to say too much about what he does) have been for long on my mind. But give me ten years and I am sure that I will answer something amazing.



Alec Soth, Dog Days, Bogota




William Eggleston


9. Your top three books to keep in a desert island.
Wow, such questions are a real minefield. I'm sure my memory betrays me and I say something silly that I will I regret for long. But hey, even assuming that these things, by definition, are virtually impossible to reasonably answer, I will say something.
"The Invention of Morel" by Bioy Casares. A short (in extension) science fiction novel immensely related to photography. One of the books I've given away more times.
As said before, "The Tunnel" by Ernesto Sabato. One of the most painful examinations of how jealousy and obsessions work. Short and brutal. I read it again recently and I found even more accurate than when I read it in my twenties.
Although I was always liked Philip Marlowe and Raymond Chandler, I must admit that Hammett Dassielgets a lot with very few elements, something that I would like to achieve with my photography. "The Maltese Falcon" is a good gateway to his world, and contains the wonderful story of Flitcraft, in which I thought many times. Paul Auster readers may understand what I mean...

10. A classic and a contemporary Spanish book.
Now comes the point where I confess that although I love the photobook format and I'm pretty dedicated to explore its possibilities, nor my library or my knowledge in photobooks are much. My gaps are particularly regrettable about classical Spanish photography, especially in regard to its implementation in books. But I remember seeing a book with full veneration from the century of Ortíz Echague, in which he made a naive but powerful collection of topical Spanish facts. The pictures were tremendous and even more its reproductions. It's a pitty that the family who show it to me considered it a family treasure and did not want to get rid of it.
Regarding contemporary, I'm still really enjoying "La caza del lobo congelado". I think it's the perfect hinge between the beginnings of Ricardo Cases and subsequent investigations and amuses and horrifies me while the harshness he exposes with a certain type of people who make a certain kind of things without the characters being aware in any way.



Ricardo Cases. La caza del lobo congelado


11. A classic and a contemporary international book.
I just realized that, arbitrarily, on the first question about books I have assumed that it was about novels and in these two I have assumed that the subject was photobooks. Well, to focus on the question, my photo library has begun to grow this year. Like so many other things, is a relatively recent development. Consequently, there are books that I know more for their reputation or their videos than anything else, which makes it difficult to properly evaluate them.
Among the books I own, one of my favorite contemporary is "Redheaded Peckerwood" by Christian Patterson. The combination of disturbing images, an interesting approach to a suggestive topic and its narration, I discover (or imagine) small new things in it each time I return to that story so dark, so distant and yet so present.



Christian Patterson. Redhead Peckerwood


From the classics, the combination of two books so different and so complementary as "American Surfaces" and "Uncommon places" is very seductive to me. The fact that those same trips produced two bodies of work as seemingly different and so influential to this day, I find it very remarkable. And, regardless of its importance, I enjoy the images, the ideas and wondering whether Shore's images faithfully reflected that archetypal idea we have of the seventies Ámerica or, if more than that, helped to create it.



Stephen Shore. Uncommon places


12. You have to keep track of...
Another of those difficult questions. Look, I'll say the first thing that came into my head to read it this time. Sure I forget a thousand obvious names but I will say a couple of them: Bego Anton is the first one. Despite being very young, already owns a number of interesting projects and his latest work, about the fairies and elves in Iceland is the kind that cause me envy, while being aware that I would not be able to do something in such a suggestive way, with such a refined appearance and a content that, to me, is not merely a handful of beautiful images. I think you have to track her very closely... and enjoy what she has done.
On the other hand, I would also like to mention the people around the Photobook Club Madrid. Probably they consider themselves a handful of book geeks but I think the steps being taken by them will lead us to interesting places. They started as others Photobook Clubs, looking at books but his desire to do things, try new formats and involve people in creating their own literary experiments is something that not only speaks of good health photobook in Spain but their own concerns as creators. So looking forward to seeing what in the future invent Boni, Juan, Ricardo, Olmo, Ana and the rest of the band.



Bego Antón. Butterfly days.


13. The current photography scene in Spain is...
...difficult to summarize briefly. But appart from this obviousness, I think that there are many photographers who are trying to use photography to tell new things and talk a bit of both themselves and the world today. Beyond trying to find amazing pictures or honor nonstop successes and formulas from the past, I think there is an interesting scenario for photography now. The lack of institutional support and the fact that the general public is not aware of all these initiatives is not good for the economic sustainability of the matter, but I think it should serve to promote a more risky photography. The almost archetypal complains about the lack of visual culture in the public or the lack of a tradition that sees photography as a cultural product are first class claims that remain perfect sense but should not paralyze us. Neither triumphalism or apocalyptic visions are useful: all we can do is try to do our bit for photography and culture.

14. What is in excess and what is missing in photography, today.
Economic uncertainty all it takes: haste to succeed, leading to unsavory shortcuts, adapt our ideas to the formats that we believe have commercial output, which implies self-deception, etc. Photography schools proliferate but also the paradox that these schools offer lessons that probably can not be exercised except in a professional manner, with in a handful of exceptions. I know it is probably an unfair simplification but I feel that sometimes schools produce new generations of students, rather than intended for photographers, they are to become (hopefully) future teachers of photography, in a cycle that has lot of nonsense. But even with that recursion a little insane, believe in the ability of many people to produce serious and thoughtful work (or risky and crazy, also worth me). What I fear is that the lack of audience and market leads us to despair or give up but I think we still have the strength to push a little more.



(No) soy de aquí


15. Who do you want to be as a photographer.
I would be one who explores his ideas, beliefs and vision of the world in ways that will result not only valuable enlightening for me but for other people, however small their number. That which is so easy to write and so complicated to achieve, is what I would get with my photography.

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