Photography: metaphor and excuse. Interview with Tomás Casademunt
Regarding our project Mirada sobre 180º —in which we will invite a renowned photographer to contribute his vision of 180 DEGREES each month through his lens— we interviewed Tomás Casademunt, a photographer who was born in Barcelona by chance of history, but found his place in Mexico.
180º: Tell us a little about yourself and your work. Some information that is important to you.
Tomás Casademunt: In a biographical sense, what is relevant, I suppose, is that I was born in Barcelona and that I will die in Mexico: 20 years ago I was captured by its electricity, which emanates from the stones of Ancient Mexico. I reconstruct what I experienced through published books; They are the great inspiration, the ones who summon all the illusion.
180º: What are your interests?
TC: The great gift of life is to continue doing what you like; the rest comes alone, magic surrounds everything, always. I was recently invited to exhibit in a gallery in Italy and the exercise helped me realize that I have been photographing dimensional doors, transition thresholds, for 20 years. I am interested in the spiritual substrate that grounds us. I use photography to see, like a flashlight; Photography as a sacred act turns what it touches into revelation. Poetry escapes chronological time.
180º: How did you start in photography?
TC: I learned to photograph working for a newspaper in Spain, five years of being a everything specialist gave me skills with the camera and in the laboratory. I continue working with film because silver is a great conductor to fossilize the timeless energy that is floating around.
TC: Photography is the great excuse to be where you shouldn't, travel and practice the contemplative life: stop and see. It's a beautiful alibi.
180º: What is the job of a photographer like, what is your creative process like?
TC: My series usually last over time, I try to extend their development as much as possible. I am my own sponsor, always self-financing my projects. If financial support, a scholarship, arises, I advance faster, but the direction does not change. In any case I resolve and continue on my way; each book is a new miracle. I try to look forward until I get to the book; So I close that chest and never open it again, I try not to look back.
180º: What would you say are your inspirations? What photographers do you admire?
TC: Everything is inspiration, everything adds up, whether or not we are aware of the stimuli. These are some of the books that I have bought from the photographers that I like: Teobert Maler, the great photographer of the Mayan palaces, Weston, Strand, Agustín Jiménez, Don Manuel Álvarez Bravo, the great Kertesz, Graciela Iturbide, Rodrigo Moya, Sergio Larraín, Diane Arbus, Rulfo, the photographs of the thought of Salas Portugal, Castro Prieto.
180º: Much of your work is dedicated to Mexican archaeological sites and you also have a book on religious imagery and another on Mexican altars. Do you have any special interest in the sacred?
TC: Spirituality led me to dimension the lost sacredness. Each of us are the embodiment of the sacred. Life is a gift and a responsibility. The chain of biological events necessary to bring each of us into existence is very long. What did we come here for? In ancient Mexico, everyone considered themselves soldiers in charge of the Cosmos: for the sun to rise again the next day, everyone's spiritual contribution was necessary. I am fascinated by imagining that ancient world based on the four stones that bear witness to it. I am very inspired by the testimony of pioneer photographers who, like me, came from abroad to witness the ancient cities of Mexico.
Religious imagery was my bridge between Spain and Mexico, I approached the plaster figures, the artisanal work that fuels prayer to be seen under the light of candles, like the fretwork of Mitla. In my imagination they were the transition between the people I previously portrayed and the stones I photograph today.
180º: Another topic you could talk to us about is time in your photographs.
TC: The great virtue of stones is that they do not move. I photograph less and less, to give each of my works a greater amount of electricity. This is why I continue to work with film in my laboratory, to capitalize on as much magic as possible in each photograph. I work under the light of the moon with long exposures, I photograph buildings under construction by exposing the same photographic plate for years. I am fascinated by circumventing the time-space equation in my photographs, grouping everything under a single visual stimulus.
180º: What is your relationship with Mexico and with everything Mexican?
TC: Since I was a child I fantasized about coming to Mexico on a boat. In Mexico I was born again, I corrected a historical error: now I am a fish in water.
180º: An obligatory question: what do you think of the current context of photography? The thing about how “easy” taking photos has become, technology. How do you fit into this context?
TC: Today we are all photographers, it is enough to have a cell phone. Professional experience is no longer a value. It was not easy to adapt to that new circumstance at work, but if you survive, you understand that only the value of your specificity matters. I work with film to capitalize on error in the form of beautiful revelations.
180º: Do you think the function of photography has changed? Do you think photography has any function?
TC: In my opinion, the great virtue of photography is that it shows us life as a metaphor; like poetry, which is written so that the unknown manifests itself.
180º: Can you tell us a little about the projects you are working on lately?
TC: After three years of work in Teotihuacán, I am currently preparing the edition of said book and starting a new project in the Palenque site to photograph its palaces under the rain and electrical storms.
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