Over the past couple weeks, I've had the pleasure of talking with Alberto Lizaralde, a photographer I came across recently. I can't remember where I first saw it, but his project "Frail" simply took my breath away. I kept his website open in my browser for a whole week just so I could go back and look through again and again. A man with many thoughts, Alberto Lizaralde is a multi-talented artist hailing from Spain. He shares with us his ideas about "Frail", photography, and how to know yourself. Read on past the break, the really good stuff is near the end.
Where were you born?
I was born in Aranjuez, a small village near Madrid (Spain)
How old are you?
Where do you live now?
Actually I live in Madrid (Spain)
Tell me a little about "Frail"; what is the idea / inspiration behind it?
"Frail" is a personal project I've been working for over a year. It’s about the concept of human fragility; physical and emotional fragility.
It’s about those everyday moments when everything collapses. Instants where our life changes, spins and breaks. Suspended moments in whichsomething has just happened or is about to. It’s about the control of ourselves and the world around us.
I’m working around this idea: We are vulnerable in the everyday.
The project comes from a particular personal situation. This situation affected my mood and culminated in a photoproject. The first pictures were taken on a trip to Costa Rica with a close friend. The work represents a moderate change in the way I shoot compared to my previous works. I changed my way of looking into the personal. More focused on a way of personal expression than in a way of communication.
It’s a highly personal project that tries to talk about a universal feeling.
In your transition from using photography as a form of communication to more personal expression, are you looking at / shooting the same things differently or seeing different things entirely?
I guess it's a mixture of both. It is something totally intuitive and not premeditated. It is more a necessity than a transformation in the way I shoot. I do not seek a reality to fit what I need. I'm not interested in that. I am interested in the sincerity of the way of looking. The pictures that move us, those that make us stay on them and make them ours are those that show the honesty and sincerity from the photographer. The photos in which the photographer is exposed. The rest are just forms. There are no good or bad photos, just sincere or insincere.
How long has this project (Frail) been in the making?
It started one year and half ago, more or less, consciously. But they are actually photographs that unconsciously I started to take much earlier. Later in the editing process is where I realized what I had in my hands. In editing the project began to take the form as it is today.
Anyway, it's a job that I'm developing and I will continue doing it for a long time because there is much to be done and is not a project limited in space or time.
It would seem like a tough thing to do, to capture a photograph that conveys that moment of dismantling. How did you go about it? Did you preconceive the shots or was it more instinctual?
None of the photos of "Frail" is prepared. Except for a self-portrait (which is there to emphasize the personal aspect of the project) the rest of the pictures are moments captured that are part of personal experiences. They are friends, colleagues or people who have crossed in my way. The same happens with the spaces and objects (which I like to give the same dimension as the portraits). I like the implicit dynamism which can transmit in a static image. When something is about to happen. That moment of transition. These are pictures that help me to ask me questions for which I do not know the answer.
All photographs are born of a drive to pull the shutter. Freud called "drive" the inescapable force placed on “id” that leads the subject to satisfy their basic needs. They cause mental conflict when they are not properly satisfied. This is the way I feel photography. As an almost physical need. One way to know myself. Throughout art history this has been the human quest: the search for ourselves.
As you say, this is something instinctive for me. I do not like to think when taking the picture, we should not be intellectuals. Because you stop being honest. You stop being you. So we think more about the result and less on the photograph. And this to me is a mistake. The time to think about is in the editing. At this time we should go round and round and round. And do not allow the time to be a pressure. The photograph needs time. With the time, the photos end up joining to each other almost magically.
It's interesting you bring to light your need for photography, because I've been thinking a lot about that myself recently. It's almost an animalistic need, in the best way possible, that as you said can't, and shouldn't be, considered until after the fact. If you think about it too much during, your almost devaluing the reality you are trying to capture. Would you talk a little more about this need? Is it the same with other art forms for you?
It is not about disturbing the reality you want to capture. In my case I am not interested in catching and capturing the reality as it is. That would always be false. I am interested in the dialogue that is produced with that reality. Some people say that photography (and art) is a way of knowing the world. But perhaps it is more a way of knowing ourselves. Andrei Tarkovsky said that human beings are on earth to improve ourselves spiritually. Art is meant to get there. All of these boring and intellectual words are about what I said before: I’m interested in the individual creative experience and an almost physical need to be developed. The communicative intention comes later. At least in my case. It's like the work of Andy Goldsworthy (if you have not seen the documentary about him called "Rivers and Tides" you should see it). His Big Search is the personal and intimate connection with the world around him. That personal moment of “collapse” or “ecstasy” at the moment of creating something. And he does not care that his works may be ephemeral. This is the search for balance, which ultimately is what we all seek.
For me, photography has two moments. The first is the need to shoot something as an intimate experience. The second step is the communicative act. It’s the time to show it to others. It’s the moment when a photograph stops being yours and starts belonging to others. Because a photograph cannot die in oneself. We are social animals. The photography must be shared because many people might feel the same way you felt taking it. And nobody, not even the author has the right to deprive anyone of it.
But none of this makes sense if at the end the result is not positive. We, photographers, are very negative sometimes and we live in a dark cloud over our heads. Although during the process sometimes we suffer, at the end we should be happy. If we suffer with photography nothing makes sense. If we have fun, everything fits. This is a very important thing.
I want to ask about the last two images in the set (the one of the fish and the one of something floating in sky blue water), mainly because I am just very fond of them. Where / How / Why were those made?
The photographs were taken at different places. Actually, in my pictures the fact of where they are taken doesn’t matter. This work is not limited either in space or time. This allows a great freedom when shooting. But it is also a risk because you never know when you've finished the work.
The first one (the photograph of the fishes) was taken in Portugal during a trip. The fishes were swimming in the sea along the drain of a city. All the rubbish and dirt of the city went down the drain. Hundreds of fishes were fighting for food amongst such waste of human beings. The image was amazing, chaotic, frenetic. They are animals that are surviving on the remains of other animals. Lately I've been editing this photograph with one in which you can see a girl with her hair up in a moment of emotional "collapse". When I edit both pictures together the fishes becomes a metaphor of the emotions of the girl, and by extension all of us. There are a lot of thoughts and feelings that fights to be first and become a frenetic chaos yet full of life.
The other photograph is a puddle of water in which a piece of cloth floats. The sky is reflected in the water. I think it's the most abstract image that I have shot. At first I didn’t want to use it in my editions because it is a strange and complicated picture for the viewer. I'm not talking about generating questions, but more about a difficulty in the reading. The different levels of reality make the image have a strange depth. This photograph is the least direct in my work. It is the most open and that’s why I like to use it at the end of an edition.
Do you think you'll ever feel a sense of completion with a project like this? Or is this something that will go on and on with your life?
This is a good question. It is something that has haunted me many times. As a work without physical or temporal limitation sometimes it is difficult to know when it will end. Before I said something about this. By depending heavily on moods I think it's a work that will go and come back to my head with some frequency. Anyway, I think it's a work that right now, I have no intention of ending. I think it will be with me for a long time and, of course, it will suffer changes and mutations. In the end we tend to give names to our works or projects. We are forced to do so. But sometimes it is just a way of photographing that extends throughout the life of the photographer. For me, every photograph by Anders Petersen, Daido Moriyama, or Nan Goldin, for instance, belongs to the same "project". A project that covers a lifetime. To separate your photographs in works / projects / books is just a way to force closing doors in order to open the following. It is a matter of resetting the mind. And sometimes it is a good thing.
What is your first significant photographic memory of your childhood?
The first memory I have is thanks to my brother. My brother bought in a small market a collection of yellow books about photographic technique. My father worked in a factory making photosensitive film and he taught my brother basics of photography. My brother bought a 35mm SLR camera and started taking photos.
I think I started with photography because of envy. A feeling that has never brought anything good to human beings was good to me. I was jealous of my brother taking pictures so I took the yellow books without him knowing and I started to practice with the camera. It is one of those things that I thank my brother for. Although I never have told him so.
Do you have any upcoming shows?
Right now I participate in the collective exhibition of BlankPaper Anuario2. It has been shown for two months in Madrid (Spain) and now will begin to show in several Spanish cities.
I have quite a clear idea on how to display my photos but now I'm more focused on having a solid, coherent and powerful work than showing it in a gallery or museum.
What’s coming next for you?
I think it would be impossible to answer this question now. And that's what I love about photography. I do not know what I do now. I do not know what's next. That's what moves me. That's the most fun. If I knew the way, I think it would be better to leave this.