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Pursuing natural, frank and genuine beauty while running away from an excessive and overloaded aesthetic, the photographer and artistic director Carlota Guerrero homages the female figure; she tributes nature and she tributes art. We are reaching out to her four years after the first time, and in the meantime, she tells us about how perseverance, intuition and vocation have driven her to the beautiful place where she speaks from today. She’s right when she says she has a “dragon in her heart”.
Carlota, we last spoke with you in 2014. With no room for a break, you have been growing frenetically and vertiginously ever since. What changes have you experienced since that last interview, and what is different from the Carlota we knew back then?
Four years ago, I looked for the images around me and the world; now, I create them myself. Back then, I was obsessed with documenting everything, I would take my camera with me everywhere and use rolls and rolls of film. But now, I put much more thought into what I do and I focus on specific projects. I believe that what differentiates me the most from my past self, from the Carlota back then, is that I now have integrated into my identity what I do; I do photography, and it’s serious. Four years ago, I was just playing – it was incredible though and, sometimes, I miss it, playing with no pressure at all.
Givenchy, Teen Vogue, Loewe, and even Solange Knowles have shown interest in your work. Did you ever imagine something like this would happen?
No, never. When Solange contacted me for the A Seat at the Table music video, she sent me a mood board filled with images taken out from my Instagram profile, to what I answered naively, “I’m so thrilled that you’ve used my images!” And she answered, “Why do you think I chose you?” – I didn’t understand a thing and couldn’t believe it.
What would you say it is that you have?
At the very beginning, every opportunity and every chance would really come up to me as a surprise because I never really had the ambition to actually succeed, neither did I follow the ‘right’ steps to have a commercial career. What I did always have (besides this dragon inside my heart that leads me) are perseverance, persistence and initiative. Ever since I was a teenager, I always had ideas and I brought them to life just because, spending and investing my own money and involving the people around me.
I’ve been really strict when it comes to creating my own language and style, very obsessive with my imaginary and very critical with myself; but especially, I believe I just got lucky, because what I do is what comes bursting out of me, just like that, and that could’ve perfectly been of nobody’s liking. However, I have been able to connect with lots of people, which I’m thankful for. I value it and I never take it for granted, since it’s what allows me to keep on expressing myself. Who knows, maybe one day I get obsessed over photographing wet towels and I just can’t fight it and people will stop admiring me… It’s always a possibility.
You’ve collaborated with and worked hand in hand with prestigious and renowned brand names and designers that have undoubtedly propelled your professional career. With such a big number of requests and assignments, have you ever seen in danger the opportunities to explore, flourish, develop and build up your most personal side while finding space for creative freedom?
It’s a touchy subject and the line is really thin, but little by little, I’m learning to find the right balance and personal involvement according to the project. At the very beginning, I would take the plunge and jump in the deep end without doubting for an instant, but it’s hard to deal with many different opinions, changes, criticism, etc. when you are used to doing things for yourself just because. Suddenly, you have to please ten people you don’t know, or an idea that’s important and pure to you gets banalized.
Now, I’m able to detect when I run out of ideas and I’m empty, so I can stop giving to other people and start living things outside ‘the image’ in order to renew my energy. Usually, living these new things still means laying naked on a rock near the sea so I can open the feelers on the tips of my hair and toes to canalize new ideas.
Self-taught and autonomous, it is my understanding that you’ve never studied photography. When did you start considering photography and creative direction your profession?
I never really considered it or actually thought about it, it just happened. I started studying psychology, then advertising… In 2008 in Spain, the future looked like a desert with no opportunities whatsoever, and when I had to choose what I wanted to study, I knew that if I told my mom that I wanted to be an artist, she would panic. Back then, this option didn’t even exist in my head, but still, I was always thinking of images, taking pictures, filming, etc. It was my natural tendency, and it was strong enough to eventually become my profession. At this point, if there’s something I still conceive as a real fact and a total truth is that I came in here with the mission to communicate through images; when I’m taking pictures is the moment I feel the most aligned and happy (sometimes, I even think I will suddenly start levitating). It’s hard for me to picture myself working on something else other than this.
You receive as a gift from a friend your first analogic camera ever. From that moment on, you start experimenting and putting the feelers on that field. Is there when your inclination for the analogic starts or was it existent before?
It existed before. I currently have learned to integrate the present, but I’ve always been very nostalgic of the past: when I was a kid, I always felt like I was born in the wrong era or period of time. The analogic is what saves the photographic process for me; the awaiting time, the duty and responsibility to think carefully before shooting a picture, the beauty of a mistake, the fact that the image exists physically and not only in pixels, etc. If you hand me a digital camera, I have too much to pick from, I might shoot a hundred photos of the same thing because I think, “Never mind, it’s free”, and I just lose the vibe.
You consider nature as one of your main sources of inspiration, which later becomes one of the most characteristic scenes for your compositions. Which would you say is the best landscape to photograph?
It’s been a long time since I last photographed landscapes, but personally, the Mediterranean Sea will always have my heart and there is where I feel the most inspired and connected.
Serenity, clarity, purity. Your watermark is minimalism and delicateness. What are the perks of owning such a personal style?
One of the pros is that people understand you. After you’ve spent some time developing a specific language, people see a photo taken by you and they know it’s yours; and they see a photo taken by somebody else who’s using an element that you also use, and this picture reminds them of you as well. That builds up a long, strong and solid relationship and bond between the audience and the photographer. I myself don’t really know where my own imaginary comes from.
In the beginning, I would always say my images were very harmonious because I’m really anxious and I needed to balance it out and create spaces that would give me peace. But these last years, the idea of woman treated like a goddess has been my greatest obsession. Still, I feel that I don’t quite get to choose the way in which I express myself; it chooses me – it’s powerful and it’s intuitive.
And the limitations?
There are plenty of limitations as well. Even I get tired of my own style, I see it and think: once again. But I just can’t help it, it’s me, it’s my own process. The colours and shapes that make me shiver and tremble. Sometimes, you get on well with yourself and sometimes you don’t; so the same happens with my style. But at the end of the day, it’s what comes bursting out of me, and that’s what matters. Until the circle is closed and another one starts, I must be true to my process. Otherwise, what are we doing this for?
Many define your pictures as a visual celebration of the female body. Is this something intentional since it belongs to your visual universe or do you find yourself photographing women in a genuine and instinctive way?
It’s something genuine and instinctive. Being a woman is my condition and starting point. I start exploring from what I know, from what I’m most familiar with – myself. My self-love doesn’t differ (or shouldn’t differ) from my love for other women. I feel an infinite admiration for the woman’s figure, her power and presence fascinate me to a visceral extent.
Recently, I photographed the trans female community in Cuba, and I understood more than ever the feminine energy: a woman with a very masculine aspect (they had very few resources for transitioning) awoke in me the same energetic connection as an old friend of mine would. To me, to photograph is to honour, to celebrate and to thank everything that I learn from them. And the stairway, the idea of the infinite stairway of women being carried by other women from immemorial times, transmitting and passing on knowledge and intuition.
For many artists, the Internet becomes the first gallery in which they ever expose their work. As far as your personal experience, how do you think these platforms have helped you, and how is the reality for the freelance photographer?
My career is inseparable from the Internet, and personally, it really has helped me a whole lot. I felt overwhelmed and very embarrassed if I had to show my creative side, so when I started receiving positive feedback I kind of lost that feeling of fear and started opening up. The Internet has some really wonderful things such as being able to have conversations directly with other artists that you admire, but also has some awful things such as the addiction to the instantaneous response or the intimacy becoming something extremely banal. But little by little, I’m finding the right balance and I’m trying to establish the healthiest relationship I can with this tool, which is indispensable for my career.
This last year, you directed Awkward Moments, an audiovisual production with many typical and distinctive features that belong to the performance. Do you feel an increasing interest in this artistic expression and manifestation? Would you say that you’d be creating more theatrical and dramatic artworks that could remind us of this kind of avant-garde ceremony any time soon?
Yes, I feel my interest increase more and more towards what could happen in the physical scene. I’ve always used the ‘performative aspect’ when taking pictures, and I often would give my girls typical directives and guidelines from that field to explore the moves, the expressions, and the composition that can be created with all our bodies as a result of what’s random.
Last but not least, confess a fear and a dream.
A fear, even though I believe one mustn’t name their fears too much: the sea filled with plastic. A dream: being able to continue doing this.