When you turn your eyes over the concerns that activate the creative curiosity of ALEXANDRA COLMENARES it is easy to understand that the beauty that she is looking for is focused on the most subtle details. Her photographic work does not come precisely from the traditional hand of an artist alien to his environment, on the contrary, over the years has shown a calm anxiety about the origins of human relationships with projects such as WORK PLACES. And her professional alter-ego serves as a dynamic witness to denote that level of appreciation for everything that surrounds us.
Alexandra is Peruvian photographer, but the borders were never really present in her way of life. Away from her native land for several years, she continues her journey capturing moments, educating herself and educating those who follow her, that there is always someone out there creating something truly special.
We discover a little of her in the next interview and we believe that part of her philosophy will make you reconsider your desire to merge with the art that we are.
Although we are not consider the coincidences as predisposed situations, if we can often admit these coincidences present rather interesting surprises. This is how we came up with the WORKPLACES project and the first thing that comes to our mind is, where exactly does this project live? How international is and, was this the initial idea?
The project as a fact was born in Belgium in the workshop of a friend who was studying painting here. She had a project in which she invites me to be portrayed along with my favorite personal objects, among them the cameras I was carrying with me that day. As everything was flowing naturally, the day after the session, I thought of photographing her during the process and everything that surrounded her in her workshop, from her personal objects to the way she mounted the canvas. It was an instant connection because despite being friends, she did not feel invaded or uncomfortable at any time. During that couple of days of portraying her, I told her that it was something I had thought about since I lived in Lima, thanks to an exercise when I was still studying photography, where for a few days I had to follow someone and create a story. Among all the characters I could choose, I chose an artist and followed him while he was preparing a sample. He followed it with the purchase of his materials, his workshop, and the gallery until this ended presenting his sample. I was eager (unconsciously) to continue the process and did not ignite the spark until I arrived at this friend’s workshop. Another reason why I decided to continue with the project is because I wanted very much to find a job here in Belgium in a magazine, or newspaper where I had to portray or follow people, since nothing came out of that, I told myself that if I did not come to This work, as I invented it.
The rest came later. I did not think about doing “international” until I realized that the project was paralyzed a bit because the circle of artists was almost the same and there were few where it was located or just some did not have much time to do it, which is Totally normal. That’s where I thought in Lima but I also thought it might be a long time to visit again or if this was certain it would not flow because it had to be constant.
Leslie Hosokawa came to my mind, Leslie is a friend who studied photography in the same school as me and I always felt attracted by her photographs. That photographic language that she has made it again catch the spark, so I proposed that we collaborate together and she agreed very happy, so super excited we embarked on the adventure. As I saw it was going very well and had a lot of repercussion and acceptance, I decided to make another move and I looked to London, where Ingrid Pumayalla is, Ingrid is another friend who studied photography in the same school as me, and like Leslie, her work I loved it, the treatment in their pictures, and their portraits are wonderful. The same, I wrote and I asked her and she accepted super happy.
Perhaps by that time they told me to suddenly leave it there for a while, between Belgium, Lima, and London, but for some reason I wanted to continue invoking my friends and this is how I did the same with Alejandra Vera, who lives in Madrid, she is a fashion photographer, which gives a special stamp to the project, because although it is not the typical magazine photographs you see there, what she does is very special and you can see her stamp, as well as that of all of us, Which also makes a difference in each.
Holland was different, a friend was the one who this time writes me telling me that she would love to collaborate, so I welcomed Kala Newman, a photographer too. The same happened with Argentina that is the last country that joined us. Victoria Robledo, who also studied with me at school, told me that I was following the project and would love to be a collaborator more, and her photographs I love and felt that I would contribute a lot to the project like all the girls.
Everything has been a bit quick but always natural. I did not think that Workplaces would extend so much in such a short time, which was a surprise to me, as it was not the initial idea but the desire for it to happen in the future. But it was a very close one.
You have a specific academic background and we know that photography has been your main foundation over the years. However, WORKPLACES also have an accompanying audiovisual side. As a photographer, how do you see the development that video has today in projects like this?
The project itself does not have many videos, what really excels in it is the final editing/diagramming of images, since through them the story is told and the circle is closed. The relation of images is very important since this differentiates it with other pages where they interview and photograph artists.
It is very little that I have used in the video if I have done it was for example when the project was a year and I returned to the workshop of the first artist to be photographed. It was like making a difference and doing something special.
The other times I’ve made a video has been very short. But basically, everything focuses on the diagramming of images more than anything. However, the video in this type of projects I find very important and inspiring for Workplaces, for example, the videos I find in Nowness or Art 21 in terms of realization and photography are impeccable and admirable. I’m always looking at them.
Could you tell us a bit more about the creative process before each episode? How do they choose each interviewee?
The process is simple. Here in Belgium, the first thing I do is write to the artist asking him if he would be interested in participating in the project, explain what he is doing and if he agrees I go to his workshop. In Lima, Madrid, Argentina, London and Holland, the process is a bit different because in each country we make a list of artists from which we can discard and we can choose. Once chosen, or I write to them or the girls because they have a free letter to do so and specify the date of the meeting. Here there is no specific deadline with delivery date or any of that since we all work and we must coordinate our times, so it is very flexible in that case. All the images, go through a first selection in the case of the other countries and then they go to my computer, where I am the one who is in charge of finishing the story through this diagram or design that I commented before.
An aspect that fascinates us of the work that they are doing, is that feeling of intimacy that is achieved with each artist and creator. Do you consider that this closeness arises naturally or is it necessary to have a previous conversation until you can achieve it?
At the beginning of the project all the artists I photographed were friends or friends of mine from the school where I studied, so everything was simple and I did not feel any kind of strange feeling. We already knew each other so it was very natural.
For the next artists I contacted, I knew the work, but not them, what emerged at that moment when we first met was the natural conversation of why we chose to be artists? Or why did I come so far? Then came the coffee, until the conversation became more and more pleasant and I could feel that we were both relaxed and could start with my work. On other occasions I have been more abrupt, I think, just a coffee and started, but while photographing there were always pauses for questions or laughter, the curious thing is that each photographed told me (at the end of the session) that he felt very comfortable and That I have not even felt in the space, that I am like a ghost… Maybe I think it is due to my 1.55 of stature!
With the other girls, I think you notice the naturalness with which they relate to the photographer. They always tell me that they are very happy to be part of the project. So again, everything flows very naturally, that’s why you see and feel the intimacy between us with the artist or creator.
Can you tell us what were the interviews you found most interesting?
A difficult question, I consider that all the ones I have personally photographed are very interesting. All are very different, but at the same time share the same passion, right? I cannot select any since they are all very special. But I will tell you that I loved to take pictures of Herbert, the gentleman who takes care of the botanical garden in Ghent. It opened my eyes to a world for which I was already very curious and the photo session I ended up going into that world of botany, especially because I use botany a lot in my personal work today.
Let we know you a little more. Why photography among so many subjects?
At the beginning, I photograph because it was the only means by which I could say things or point them in silence since eloquence is not my forte. But not everything begins and ends with photography, since in recent years I encouraged myself to experiment with other media, and before photography was doing contemporary dance. I think at some point all my curiosities exploded and made me flirt with performance, objects, installations, video in some cases.
…I photograph because it was the only means by which I could say things or point them in silence…
I am very curious and I cannot be still sometimes. Right now I have returned to photography almost completely. I started again to photograph in analog and appreciate what you can not with digital: The only opportunity to capture. But I do not feel anything foreign to the other media mentioned, except that I do not force it, it comes naturally.
From the beginning, we have been quite attracted to your project WHERE BUTTERFLIES DIE. Would you tell us a little more about this?
It is a project that I carried out in a residence in Amsterdam. I was given a small space to intervene as I wished to do. At that moment I saw the opportunity to finally relate objects with images as small installations. What I proposed was to take space as a space of experimentation. I divided my time between long walks in the city, to photograph, or to collect objects with potential sculptural found in the street. The second part was to take them into space and start “playing” with them, to find a relationship or conversation between them.
It was important to me also that the viewer (when I had the final result) can feel a little the experience that I lived during those weeks to have contact with strategically hidden pieces. For example, having to step on or move plastics on the floor or ask them to empty their pockets for residue they have accumulated for a while. In the end, I think it could be said that the end result was a journal of lived and shared experiences and try to call them to what goes unnoticed in our lives.
Did you study in Lima, do you consider that the local academic field provides the necessary tools for a correct artist development?
I was not in Lima a few years ago, but when I studied, I always felt that I was not given all the necessary tools to satisfy some of my curiosity. For example, there was no way to study video, now I know there are specialized workshops and courses at the school where I graduated. I remember that when arriving at the last cycle, you must present your thesis, we had no idea how to start it! We should start from scratch with some guidelines and step by step, but it was torture to have to write. There was not much initiative to be able to write your own texts of the artist, we lacked courses or teachers that would impel us or guide us in that way. We were lucky to have Luz Maria Bedoya with us who got us out of all the trouble with her incredible classes and advice. In fact, I consider that I learned a lot from her after leaving school. When we could, we drank coffee and commented on some ideas that seemed to me at the time a little crazy because I wanted to do performance or installations, but I was holding the title of photographer and she lightened me saying that I did not have to stop these Impulses of wanting to communicate or create. Luz Ma was the one who wrote the text of my first individual sample six years ago already. I can not be happier and grateful. I reached out and went for the branches. But in answer to your question, I think that at this moment are giving more tools and possibilities for artists to develop without any break.
Let’s go to soften up things a little. if we could know you through a song or a disc… Which one would you choose to identify yourself (at least today)?
I am a person who cannot live without listening to music. If it sounds pretty caramelized, but it’s true. I cannot work without music in my ears, it’s old. Right now I’m answering this interview, I’m listening to Beach House. But if you ask me for a record that I will always have to come back to again and again, it’s George Harrison’s “All things must pass” It’s the record I’ve been playing from song one to the last.
What is the horizon of the Workplaces project within the next 2 years?
Right now we go slowly, step by step, but definitely, in the future, I would love to prepare a publication a well-made book and definitely grow in other countries and get to know the work of other great artists and creators.
When closing this interview, what would be a likely place where we could find you, and get a coffee together?
A probable place right now is the Miraflores boardwalk, looking at the sea, my favorite place now that I’m visiting Lima. And here you find me safe in the botanical garden.