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When we talk about photography we tend to do so from the perspective of aesthetics, often getting carried away by the visual elements that stand out in the foreground and forgetting what is involved in the act of photography itself. This type of art, like all others, possesses a symbolic force similar to that of a portrait painter or a writer who has been commissioned to write a biography. What story do I want to tell? What perspective do I want to give it? For Lucho Dávila, these questions go beyond what is merely in front of him at that exact moment. For him, it is all about heritage.

His project is based on reflections on questions of identity stemming from his Ecuadorian origins. To explore to what extent the Ecuador of today can be related to the Ecuador from before the Spanish colonisation. Goya has said it before, "the dream of reason produces monsters". Reason grounded in paternalistic dynamics and archaic violent concepts such as the white hero is one we reject.

Lucho, who bases his new series of works on traditional stories from his native Ecuador, is not a superstitious person either. His name on social media is closely linked to the number thirteen, which is known to correlate with bad luck. He looks straight into its eyes and says: "my only bad luck would be to lose my vision". He presents Fanesca, take a look.


Lucho, this is the first time you've spoken to us. So what better way to introduce yourself than by talking about your connection to your craft? When did you connect with photography?
Thank you for having me today! I’m happy to connect with you since that’s what photography is about, connecting with people. I discovered photography around 2004 or 2005 on a train trip from Tokyo to Nagoya. I was born in Quito, Ecuador, where you are in the centre of the world, so in the Summer the sun is directly above you the whole time. When I discovered Summer side lightning, I discovered photography.
Two things make me particularly curious about you. Firstly, you confront superstition by taking thirteen (trece) as a pseudonym. Secondly, you use braille in your logo. Could you tell me about this?
Curiously enough, I started my brand back in 2013. With iamtrece both as a brand and as my nickname. As you pointed out, my logo is a braille word. It says thirteen in Spanish: trece. The concept behind the use of the number thirteen and its translation into braille has to do with my lack of belief in superstitions. Even though I'm afraid of losing my sight. I think you need to be able to see in order to work with light, don't you? With iamtrece I wanted to adopt the number thirteen as mine. And proof it is not related to bad luck, while at the same time secretly telling through my brand my deepest fear.
It is said that your work is the union of a strong and multifaceted vision. Does it have to do with having studied design before devoting yourself fully to photography?
I think that's right, there is something that on my YouTube channel [iamtrece tv] I call "the eye of the tiger" which is good taste and it's something we can learn by studying art in all its expressions. I think that coming from other disciplines related to art and visual communication has helped me because you need to have trained criteria in visual terms.
You work mostly shooting fashion editorials. You've lensed for Off-White, Lasserre, Rolling Stone, and Nylon, among others. You have also been published in The British Journal of Photography following a course you did with Nick Knight. How did that opportunity present itself? And why fashion photography?
I always wanted to do fashion photography, to me, it's an excuse to create surreal situations yet, at the same time, photography has some truth within. Photography has the power to convince us that what we are seeing is true because it is a frozen instant of a past moment. This is very important in fashion because when we see an image in magazines or campaigns we think it is real. I would like to say that these opportunities have presented themselves little by little, as my work has evolved and more people have found out about me. But that's not the case because, in photography, opportunities don't present themselves, you look for them and that's what I've done. For example, I've just recovered my Instagram account with 15,000 followers, after disappearing for 6 months due to hackers, and I've disappeared from the world. It may sound banal, but nowadays, with so much noise, these tools are important to create work opportunities and connections for yourself.

You have also been working in advertising agencies. What are the differences between using photography for commercial purposes and using it for artistic purposes? As I understand it, your art is a synonym for politics.
In advertising everything goes very fast, everything must be delivered yesterday, and you almost dance to the rhythm of whoever is paying. Without mentioning the over retouching in advertising campaigns. On the contrary, in my opinion, art and fashion allow you to show your vision and show what you can contribute to the world. Here you are hired to contribute with your ideas. I would say that now, my work is about identity more than politics. I try to avoid politics, I'm more interested in cultural identity as it's the subject of my body of work Fanesca. But my themes related to Latin America are always politicised.
In a video, you posted on your own YouTube channel you commented that the best time to be a photographer was now, but you also considered how difficult it is to dedicate yourself exclusively to it professionally. Could you tell me about this?
Once, whilst directing a documentary, the interviewee said, "whoever hires me doesn't know why he's hiring me" in a heritage restoration context. I think we have it easy as photographers because we have so many free digital tools and online knowledge. Plus huge exposure platforms like Instagram and other networks to show our work, not to mention that now you don't need to study coding to make a website. Before photographers had a physical portfolio and their showcases to the world were print magazines.
But it’s more complex.
At the same time, it's more complex because now everyone is a photographer, so the competition is huge. On top of that, most of the people who are in charge of hiring us, don't understand art. They go for the cheapest, the friend or the popular photographer. When those indicators are not necessarily related to good work. In other words, most don't understand why some photographers charge more than others. Then you see all the magazines with the same images and all the brands with the same campaigns, everything is the same because they prefer to pay (if paid) for a copy, instead of an idea.
You are currently presenting your latest project, Fanesca, where you revisit your equatorial heritage based on a critical view of the influence of external factors on current Latin American identities. Could you tell me a little more about this?
Fanesca is something that has been maturing since 2019. Through this series, I reflect on mestizaje in Latin America and I take Ecuador and my body as a case study. Fancesca is an autoethnographic exploration, my identity is something I want to analyse at the moment. After living several years in Quito, Madrid, and now London you ask yourself questions like, where is home? Fanesca looks at how a society's identity is affected by influences from dominant countries in terms of fashion and how you leave or adapt your traditions and, through this I analyse my identity. Take for example the Magdalena in Spain, everyone started to call cupcakes. In this body of work, you can find this in the traditional Ecuadorian characters that I represent from my point of view with handmade masks crafted by me and contemporary outfits.

Therefore, the context is a character by itself?
The context in which I interpret these characters is very important. Because I built representations in London with the materials that I was able to find for each mask and composed outfits in collaboration with a stylist who has studied in London and lives in Romania. Not to mention my mixed heritage. This project is a celebration of cultural mixing (syncretism) and a reflection on how our traditions are transforming and with them our identity. I call it a celebration to keep it away from political confrontations because, without this kind of influence or mixture, the tortilla de patata would not exist, as you may know, the potato originates from South America. With all these conceptual layers, Fanesca aims to start a conversation about cultural syncretism and to give visibility to communities that are very present in Spain, but in England, for example, I have realised that they exist but are almost invisible.
The name, which comes from a traditional dish made in Ecuador for Easter, is the common nexus of a set of symbols that represent Spain's colonial past in Ecuador; I am talking about the Diablo Huma, Curiquingue, Mama Negra, Capariche, and Sacha Runa. Why these five elements in particular?
I have decided to take the name of a dish as the name of the project because it is something that reflects the concept of this body of work, which is syncretism. Fanesca is a dish that existed before the Spanish colony arrived. It had meaning for the indigenous people and after the colony, it was transformed into a religious dish without altering its ingredients, only its meaning. And that, to me, is the purest shape of a celebration of syncretism between two cultures because, to this day, the dish is cooked every year in Ecuador.
I have represented five characters as you mentioned because they emerged after the influence of the Spanish colony. Therefore, they carry a combination of cultural baggage from both sides. Take for example the Diablo Huma, it is a representation of the devil, something that didn't exist until the Catholic religion arrived.
To give you an idea, the Capariche is a street sweeper, something that didn't exist until the colony built the city center in Quito. The Mama Negra is a celebration of a Virgin of the Volcanoes, here you find the influence of religion mixed with superstition about nature. The Curiquinge is a bird that was considered close to the gods but in the traditional parades you see it covered with Catholic symbols, even the shape is similar to that of the Cucuruchos of Semana Santa. And the Sacha Runa is a man of the jungle, representing the mixture between nature and man.
However, they are not the only ones that reflect Spain's paternalistic relationship with Ecuador. There are also Nazarenes and bananas that cover faces until only bodies are visible. What role do faces play in the identity of a culture?
I think the face reveals a lot about your identity, doesn't it? At least in this society, divided by social strata and races (although many prefer to believe that this no longer exists). Still, it is a superficial reading because the identification you have with one culture or another does not rely on the shape or colour of your face. It is a very delicate subject because we enter into racism and in my experience, it is something that is very marked in the societies where I have lived. That's why I decided to cover my face and use a wig in these self-portraits so that no one can identify me. Therefore, that model can be any of us. Also, in this way, I focus attention on Fanesca's message.
This project was your master's thesis at the University of the Arts London and you presented it during London Fashion Week 2022. What was it like to frame such an introspective project in such a seemingly superficial environment?
In my opinion, fashion is not superficial at all, neither is design, nor fashion photography; copycats are, trends too. Peter Lindbergh said, "many photographers shoot trends without knowing why", and I believe that's why we think it's a superficial environment.
Actually, fashion tells us a lot about people, how you express yourself through your clothes says a lot about your character, your way of thinking, and the music you listen to. And even if many say they don't care about fashion, the moment we are buying any brand, we are deciding how to express ourselves. In the simple moment of choosing between a black or white T-shirt, that alone is a decision you have made. I believe people care about fashion more than what they say.
Presenting my work with this amount of theoretical, cultural, and rich emotional elements in this environment has been a very nice experience. As I mentioned, the goal for Fanesca is to start conversations about issues that are relevant to me, and to be able to present my work in this context makes me think that maybe there are still people who do develop concepts and value the effort behind a body of work like this.
In the course of the interview, I found out that you are also releasing your own NFTs. Do you think the future of photography is heading towards web 3.0? And you, where are you heading?
Well, that's a new phase for me and most artists, I guess. It's a market that I'm exploring yet because, without a doubt, it's a huge opportunity. The world is changing very fast and as artists, we have to adapt.
In my opinion, photography has a lot of opportunities there because there are plenty of other images that are sold as collections, illustrations, or 3D renderings that are still images. The NFT world is quite complex, and I like it because it focuses on the why of the work, rather than the aesthetics or technique. I'm not saying it's not important, but the reason behind a project is more important in my opinion.
This represents more opportunities for photography, as I mentioned before, there are more opportunities online but, more competition. For me, it's interesting to be able to create NFT projects that I've always wanted to shoot but never did because they didn't fit in the context of traditional photography.

Words
Maria Antón
Photography & Art Direction
Lucho Dávila
Styling
Andrew Christian
Photographer Assistant
Julia Alexandra S.
Ecuadorian Traditional Accessories
Restaurante El Inca Plebeyo, London

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