Obsessive Collectors

Alba Yruela and Rafa Castells Interview

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Alba Yruela and Rafa Castells, born in 1989, are two photographers from Barcelona”. This is what could be read at the description of the project they both exposed at Verkami micropatronage platform in order to obtain the financing they needed to perform their joint exhibition called “La forma del món” (The Shape of the World).

Such a naturalist description welcomed us to a close and honest universe that this couple of photographers reflect in innumerable pictures from their most intimate daily lives. Them both and their world, gravitation expressed the simplest way.

Eighty of these snapshots, actually eighty moments stolen from oblivion to be remembered on a film roll, are part of the exhibition curated by Amanda de Pablo at H2O Gallery in Barcelona, open until march 14th.

How did the idea of an exhibition occur? Why looking back to the last five joint work and living years?
        During one of the “Jornadas en el Sótano” sessions, parties we organized with our friends where we made some concerts and exhibited the work of all of us, we met Amanda who suggested us to gather a collection of some of our pictures at an exhibition. That took a whole year work. As our photography is random and we still hadn’t done anything with pictures from that period of our life, we enjoyed the idea of closing that stage by doing an exhibition.

What has your selection criteria been? What have you priorized while choosing some pictures instead of the rest? And finally, how do the pictures articulate across the exhibition?
        We showed Amanda some photos and she made a selection. We have a sentimental bond with the photos that spectators have not, so she chose, from her distant point of view, the pictures she considered they were the bests to show the public that stage. She often asked for our opinion in order to help her with the selection and we decided to reject some photos because we thought they did no fit the project. Anyway, there’s been nor chronological neither chromatic order. We have simply grouped the photos looking for an aesthetic sense, creating contrasts among the different kind of photos that conform the selection.

What has it meant to you to participate in this process of retrospective and selection?
        When we watched the selection for the first time we could see an evolution on the view and the technique of our photography, but it also led us relive old memories from the past and rediscover some photos we rejected time ago which we have valued over time.

What’s your work methodology? Does the camera always go with you or you only carry it when your mood or the circumstances make you think you are going to find good material to be photographed?
        Our camera always comes with us but it doesn’t mean we always use it. During the day we often see things that catch our attention but not we always take photos of them. Usually we carry a compact camera for everyday use and another one for slower photos. Besides we use the cellphone camera very often.

With the passage of time and the increasing public exposure of your life, have you ever experienced any kind of modesty or self-censorship?
        We have many pictures we have ever published, and probably it will take much time until doing so. We have no hurry. We’d rather show these more intimate pictures in the future.

As we can see at your photos, one important part of your world is those people who interact with you, those people who gravitate around you like little sattelites. Has it been a natural process the representation of these relationships?
        When we started taking photos, our friends started being photographed. They have always been at the base of our work, we’ve grown together. Over time, logically, taking photos of them has become something more natural.

You portray each other in many pictures. Knowing it’s a difficult question, how do you describe the experience of portraying each other?
        It’s something very natural, we it do the same way we take photos of our friends. Achieving a personal and intimate portray requires trusting that person very much. We have lived together for a long time so we have built a very strong confidence which also have with our closer friends. Once you’ve got it, you don’t interfere in what’s happening around, no one acts different because of having a close camera. Otherwise, if that complicity doesn’t exist, probably you will take no photos of a situation, for more beautiful it is. Our photography is, above all, a personal work with people. That’s the reason why we even take photos of intimate scenes.

Your view has attracted such important magazines as Dazed and Confused, Vice or Neon, and has given the chance of carrying on commercial works. How has it been to adapt your work routine to projects whose communicative purpose is different from the one you were used to?
        We think commercial works are nothing but works, like working as a waiter or as a shop assistant. But we make them by using our tool. One thing is your personal creation, and another different thing is to adapt your point of view and your technic to an specific order.

How do you think the year you spent in London helped you to improve your creativity? Was it revitalizing for you the exposure to a new environment and new relationships?
        When we arrived there we knew no one and spent the time discovering the new city. Every day was a new adventure for us. We lived over the south, far from the centre of the city and from anything we knew. We used to spent the hours walking to drift. It was during that travel when we discovered that photography was part of us. Over time, we met very interesting people. People like Jesse Wine, Samara Scott, Roberto Rubalcava or Lina Scheynius, who knew the city and shared interesting things with us. They helped us to discover new places, exhibitions and other people.

Having lived in foreign countries as crawlers of photographers’ artistic reality around the world, how do you value Barcelona’s (and your country’s) reality?
        That’s really bad compared to nearby capitals such as London or Paris. Exhibiting and sharing your work there is much easier than it is here in Barcelona, where almost no one has any help. Here, each one snaps out the way he can. We like the idea of looking for the way to edit publications and find independent exhibitions with no dependence on anybody, but we also would like to undertake new projects that are impossible to carry on that way.

Nowadays there are new social phenomenons, like Instagram app, where everybody uploads lots of pictures from his daily life, with greater or lesser modesty and intention. How do you value this overexposure to photography we are living? And, generally, how do you interact with social networks?
        We usually use Instagram because it’s a tool we like it very much, actually it’s a channel for finding many different and interesting things. We don’t use Twitter but use Facebook.

Let’s focus on your world’s big bang. When did you discover that you both not only share your passion for photography but also the way you look at the world and portray it?
        When we started spending much time together we discovered many things. Inevitably we acquired a very similar worldview we still share.

Apart from you both, which are the photographers you admire the most, and why? (native or foreigners ones)
        We have many friends who also do photography and we like following their works. Some of them are Lluís Tudela, Marta Verheyen or Carles Hidalgo, among many others. There are many native and foreigners photographers we like very much, the list is quite long. Niko Krijno, from South Africa, is an artist we like very much now.

If we talk again in five years, what would you like to have captured with your cameras? What projects, individually or together, are you thinking of?
        We hope having edited some publications, having brought our work to different cities, traveling, meeting new people and going on living the way we do now.

Photos are, in some sense, shapes of moments from the past that will never happen again exactly the same way. Throughout all these years, is there any image whose losing has made you very angry? Any erased folder? Any picture vanished from the archive?
        One of the reasons why we go on taking photos in analog system is to keep that moment on a physical carrier due to many of the photos we have taken in digital system have been lost. Many of those ones taken in analog system have also got lost in our memory because there are many rolls of films that maybe we only have seen once. But by checking our archive we can remember forgotten moments from years ago.

One last question – suggestion. Each one of you must choose one photo taken by the other out of the eighty pictures of the exhibition. Can you explain why you have chosen it, why you like it and what it evokes to you?
        When we moved to the flat at Gran Via street we painted the walls so the sofa was in the middle of the flat. I can remember it because we were alone resting there. Many of the photos hide beautiful moments, even when they simply show some feet or some flowers. (Alba)

Mary and me at General Mitre street, before moving to Gran Via street. I can remember that day because it was so thrilling, we did a lot of things and at night we went to Vallvidrera to spend the night with our friends. I like perceiving the city changes and taking photos of time passing. Now, some reforms in that street have changed its appearence completely. (Rafa)

Interview: Roger Estrada
Photography: Alba Yruela and Rafa Castells

Alba Yruela and Rafa Castells Interview

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Tags: #daily, #interview
Author: , ,
Published on 13/02/2014