Walking Between Boundaries


Every year the Colombian Consulate in Paris makes a Visual Art Contest for all the Colombian artists resident in France, the idea is to help promote the artists in the french art environment.

I have participated twice and fortunately both I have been one of the winners, but this year was very special because the topic of the contest was the borders and diaspora, how we as artists chose by our own decision the exile to go to a different country and develop our art, far away from our physical, cultural and historical borders.

I decided to participate with a series related to my returning to street photography. Last year with the intention to go back into my roots to find my own visual voice, I decided to explore again the type of photography that started me on this art and so I went back to the streets. Every week since February 2015, I hit the streets at least twice a week and walk around Paris in that search for my internal voice.

The topic of the contest was very related to my own internal artistic process of last year, so I went through all the pictures of this period, looking for links with the diaspora and the crossing of borders and what I decided to submit were the following images, each one also related to a phrase which at the end are 2 paragraphs explaining about the visual introspection that I`ve started since 2015.

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“Stepping out of my door into the streets feels like diving into a dim river,

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I never know what I´m going to find under the mighty waters of concrete,

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light is the beacon that guides my walks around Paris,

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my eyes are the compass to lead my way.

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After one year scouting the streets, I have come to know the city of lights,

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I have seen it under its skin, I have seen its real life, I have seen its ordinary days,

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but at the same time I have seen myself, reflected in these pictures,

Paris People

And I have understood that this search is not only about Paris.”

The series is going to be exposed at the Colombian Consulate in Paris until the next June 7th 2016, if you want to see it, you´re welcome to come during the office schedules.

Cheers!

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Travel of Life


© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

I have always liked to travel and see new worlds, new cultures, new ways of seeing life, new sensations, new people; when I’m traveling I have this feeling inside of excitement, curiosity and expectation, the same one I have when I receive a gift from somebody wrapped in a nice gift paper: I dont know what comes inside and I like to unwrapped slowly and carefully, with no hurry to make that sensation of excitement, curiosity and expectation last the longer that I can.

The most important travel that we as humans will ever do is our life itself. It’s a travel even if you dont ever move from the place you were born, it’s a mind and spirit travel that you will have even if you dont want to do it, it’s a travel because you start in one point coming to life from your mother and end up in another one without ever knowing the date it will finish, it’s a travel because you will carry a luggage of experiences with you that could make the trip easy or hard to handle and it’s a travel because you are not the same person at the end of the journey.

The most interesting part of this travel of life is that the only thing you will have for sure is an end that will last forever, that final point of arrival is called death,  after that you will never be able to travel again at least in what we know as our physical tridimensional world in earth. Death is what makes the travel of life most interesting, because no matter what you decide to do in life you will end up dying and the most exiting thing about death is that none of us know when it will come; Death is not just for the old people, death is just another part of the cycle of life and it can arrive at any moment of our short human existence.

So, if we know that the only certain thing in our trip of life is death and at the same time we don’t know when it will arrive, Why should we waste our lives doing things that don’t make us feel in the present that feeling of excitement, curiosity and expectation that I mention before? Why should we live a life the way everybody does just because it’s the way it should be? Why should we waste our limited minutes of existence to do a life to please the others? and most important: Why should we live a life to feel regret for not having done what we really wanted in our last minutes before dying?

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

We should have the courage to take the real control of our lives and start doing whatever brings us in the present that feeling of joy, love and passion, with no excuses for that! The monster of money in our society of hyper consumption have taken out from us our souls, clouding our minds and blackening our hearts. Former President of Uruguay José Mujica described it really well for Human the movie: “When I buy Something, when you buy something, you’re not paying money for it, you’re paying with the hours of life you had to spend earning that money. The difference is that life is one thing that money can’t buy, life only gets shorter and it’s pitiful to waste one’s life and freedom that way.”

It’s been three years since I decided to make the decision to take the control of my travel of life by doing what really has made me feel alive: Photography. Before I was living a “good life” in front of society in all aspects: economically, socially, professionally and sentimentally, but I was living empty inside and blind for our capitalism system. Today, I can say that since I made that decision three years ago, the travel of life has been five times more lonely, ten times more exiting, hundred times more human, thousand times more difficult but million times worth it.

I live this travel in the present with the gift that every morning brings to me, sometimes the gift is amazing, some times is ugly, but it’s a gift that life is bringing to you to learn something, it’s a gift that I like to unwrap slowly and carefully because I will carry it with me in the travel of life and it will help me in some way to travel more humanly, being grateful for that minute that just has passed, which will never come back; this gift will help me in my present to construct the minute that is coming next, which I will never know if it will be the last one in my life.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

I wanted to express in some way how I feel on this travel of life, so I went to the train stations where you find the powerful TGV trains to shoot some images to capture that blurry, confusing, difficult but colorful and exiting way that I´ve been living that live travel adventure in the last three years, I hope you enjoy them!

Cheers!

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Universal Connection


© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

I remember very well, when I was a child the first time somebody explained me that our ¨huge¨ planet was just a tiny particle in the middle of a infinite space. I felt an indescribable emptiness in my stomach and a feeling of confusion in my head, how could it be possible that such a huge planet, where the humans are the “kings” and “lords” would be just a grain of sand in the immensity of the universe?

Ever since then, I had this question on my mind and the curiosity about the universe, the stars, our planet and the energy that goes around all of them, specially how we as humans are connected to this huge and unknown system? Little by little, I started finding information, people and knowledge that allow me to start understanding a little bit more how and where to start putting the first pieces of the puzzle in my head and soul to understand the riddle.

After all these years, I have come to some conclusions, today I want to share one of them with you, which was my first personal approach to understand the universe at this moment in my life. I dont pretend for this to be an indissoluble truth and even less pretend to convince you of something… these are just some thoughts, that can evolve and change with time as the universe does every day.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Today I understand that we human beings are not the lords of our planet nor even of the universe, we are just another tiny grain of sand which has a role in the gear of universe. I started to think this way the day I found a paragraph in the book of CelsusOn the True Doctrine: The Discours Against the Christians“, the paragraph says “…And if they object this verse from Euripides: “The sun and the night are at the service of man”, I will ask, why were them made more for us than for ants and flies? The night doesn’t serve them, as it does for us, to rest, the sunlight to see clearly and work?…”

That specific paragraph made a change in my way to see the universe, I understood that our huge planet, which is in direct connection with our solar system and with the universe, is also in direct connection with that ant and vice versa. At the same time the planet has this same relation with me, with no distinctions, the ant and me are in the same level of relation for the planet, so If I wanted to be connected to the universe, I should have a honest relation with the planet as the wise ant does.

To have that honest relation with the planet, I should start by having a honest relation with me and that starts by finding what is my real task in life, as the ant knows it and just does it. In my case, for many different cultural and religious reasons that were blocking my mind, my soul and my spirit, it took me 35 years to find out which was that task  that will allow me a honest connection with the Universe.

When you find that task you should perform in the planet, you will know it immediately because ones you do it for the first time, every one of your atoms will be vibrating  of joy, you will lose the sense of the time passing, the more you do it, the more you will feel energized instead of tired and you´ll always have the desire of  going back and do it again.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

My task to connect with the Universe is the art of Photography, it is a daily task that connects me honestly with my surroundings, with the planet, with my interior, with the present but at the same time, in the same millisecond I press the shooter it’s also connecting me with the past  that I just frozen with my camera for ever. The act of photographing and photography itself are linked to connect me with the universe.

During the last year, I had the desire to do a series of pictures to show the relation I´m trying to construct with our planet and to the infinite ocean of galaxies that are out there. Last December, I went to a region in the central Colombian Andes range, which have been related to my family for the last 5 generations; we have been working and living close to those mountains, I have felt and seen those landscapes since I have a memory. When I am there, I always go to a mountain near the house, lay down in the ground, close my eyes and just relax, be in the present, breath and feel with all my senses the connection with our planet.

Last time while sitting there, I had the idea to do a series of photos in that place by night, so I could show the landscape in connection with the stars of the universe, all connected in one frame through my eyes; the 3 of us connected in one single image to accomplish my task as the ant does to be literally connected to the Universe in one picture.

Cheers!

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Photography: Like a Sailor Quest


Rue de Rivoli

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

The sun comes up, the alarm screams at loud, there is a new day starting to be discovered; my brain slowly, very slowly starts coming down from gamma vibrations to start connecting again with reality and my soul starts coming back filling my body from the crown of my head to the tip of my thumb until the moment when I´m completely conscious to remember that a new opportunity to start a search is now starting.

I say “search” because it’s the word that has haunted in my mind during the last times, a search that is more likely a Quest, which the Oxford dictionary defines as: A long or arduous search for something. It is a photography quest to find my own way to see outside through the discovery of my inside, I believe we see reality according to our own experience, which means reality is something as individual as the number of people in this planet. Even though everything is inside you, the quest to find the essence and put it in your pictures is the challenge.

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© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Fifteen minutes after, I jump out from the warmth of my bed, have an energetic breakfast, take a hot shower, check the weather predictions, get dress accordingly, grab my camera and sail out of my place into the big ocean that represent the streets of Paris.  Ironically I need to start a quest outside, to find out my inside as a projection in my pictures, it’s almost like a self therapy to rediscover yourself in every click.

To find your photographic voice, there are no shortcuts, no magic answers, no apps, no technology, no famous check lists of things to do like those ones which are so popular on internet or crap like that. It’s a process that takes time, effort, study, observation but the must important of all: doing pictures every day if it’s possible, it doesn’t matter if the pictures are not directly related to the field of photography that you’re developing right now.

Real photography at the end is about photographing what fascinates you,  every day for sure you will discover things that fascinates you in many different ways in your surroundings and photographing them will give you the opportunity to put all that knowledge together to after using it in your field. Harry Callahan ones said “To be a photographer, one must photograph. No amount of book learning, no checklist of seminars attended, can substitute for the simple act of making pictures”

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© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

For me this quest is like the one the sailors did in ancients times: they sailed from their port of departure to the deep ocean searching for something they were not sure to find and even didn’t know what it could be. Every time I put my feet into the street, I feel that I’m immersing myself into the waters of the concrete ocean that lies just outside my door and starting a new journey without knowing exactly what I’m going to find.

Yes, it’s  a lonely work, no one can do it for you, you’re outside alone with your camera, with your thoughts, your emotions, your insecurities, your history laying in your back, silent, attentive, doing the ritual of a feline chasing for its dam, a dam that will be outside, in that concrete ocean to reveal something from your inside, yes, it’s ironic but it’s the way it is.

The final result of a sailing day can be great or poor, but what matters is the journey, because all that learning process will be put in your next photo. At the end, what really thrill me about sailing away into the concret ocean of the city is that I’m sure to find a new adventure that will make me feel alive in the present which I believe is the only thing that in reality I can decide for.

This time I made a selection of pictures of spaces, buildings and things that touch me in some way from my latest journeys, no people involved…hope you enjoy them!.

“Experience is the best teacher of all. And for that, there are no guarantees that one will become an artist. Only the journey matters …” – Harry Callahan

Cheers!

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Visual Introspection


© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

I haven´t post lately with the same frequency as before and the reason is the Introspection. Yes, there are moments in life when you need to look inside your own mental and emotional bodies to understand more about you and specially about the struggle we have as artist to be ourselves, to find who we really are, to die and reborn every day to connect that with our art, which for me is photography.

Sometimes, the introspection comes from you and some others it comes from outside. In my case, it came from the explosive shake of my soul that came after my inner search for answers. Then suddenly, life put me in contact with some key persons that let me to answers about my photography and you know what? I found out that I was forgetting or missing the path to reach my own self, the answers that came from this persons were like fire alarms that woke me up to take things to a next stage.

Paris People

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

I went back to the roots and started remembering why and how I started this path as a photographer 3 years ago and remembered that all started in the streets of Bogotá where I spend hours as a hunter, chasing for images to collect, to eternize in bits those instants that will never happen again in the exact same way.

At this moment, I realized that I haven´t been an street image chaser since I´ve been living in Paris as a profesional photographer, I realized that I was not taking advantage of the opportunity to live in one off the most interesting cities in the world, full of history, art, complexity and diversity, with strong contrasts between beauty and ugliness, richness and poverty, darkness and color and a million more of combinations.

Paris People

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

I understood that I was wasting my opportunity in Paris to collect the present, wasting the opportunity to express my present experience through my pictures and at the same time to remember who I am. So  I decided to go out into the stone jungle of Paris and chase for those moments, those images that are alive in my present but at the same time are dying at while I´m pressing the shutter to become part of the past but to live for ever frozen into the frame of a picture. As Susan Sontag said on her book On Photography: “The photographer is the contemporary being for excellence; through his look, the present becomes the past.” I felt that

In the other hand, I also saw that I wasn’t taking all the advantage of the art and cultural exuberance of Paris,  so I also started to visit museums, go to exhibitions, go to publique libraries to study the work of masters like Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Robert Frank and more contemporary great photographers like William Klein and Alex Webb, to learn about their path, their life, their photography and to try to get under their skin to continue from there my search into myself.

All this started at the beginning of this year when I was searching for answers to find a way to connect my fashion photography with something close to what I like: the Street, the concrete reality of the asphalt and stone of the city. What I want is to put the fantasy stories of fashion inside a context that is in real touch with “real world” and I put these two word quotes because I’m talking about my real world, the one I see out in the streets, the one I see through my eyes, I feel through my soul and I concretize through my mind.

Paris People

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

The result of all this process until now has been a reunion with my self, talking pictures in the street, alone, walking for hours waiting for that special moment to happen, reawakening my instincts and, following them, rethinking my photography, because “photography is a universal force of reevaluation of life” as Sontag said.

But the most important discovery, has been this phrase of Moholy-Nagy: “The ethos of photography, seems closer to that of modernist poetry than that of painting. As painting has become more and more conceptual, poetry has more and more defined itself as concerned with the visual”. Ones I read it, many things felt into place because at the same time I feel photography has become more, and more poetic making the daily scenes of the real world look like magic, showing a world that although is taking from reality, it only exist int the pictures.

This quote from Moholy-Nagy also made me remember that I used to write poems when I was in high school and university, but I stopped it ones I started to work, so it was a beautiful coincidence to find out this quote to remember and connect with my past, with something that was sleeping inside me and now I want to wake up… I finally understood that I might keep looking for poetry in my photography or pictures in my poetry.

So here is a sample of what I´ve been doing lately, I hope you enjoy them:

Cheers!

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Making a Career Change: From Sales Manager to Photographer


Panoramic picture of Bogota

Bogota Panoramic by © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

It was a cloudy cold day in Bogotá, I was driving my car after work to the coach´s office, my mind was calmed but at the same time I had this same feeling of anxiety as when you’re waiting to kiss for the first time a girl; I knew this appointment was going to be important, but I never guessed what it would mean in my life.

When I arrived to the place, I went upstairs through a dark hallway and knocked in the brown wooden door of  Thuoper (a Colombian company that has a powerful tool for life coaching). The coach opened the door, a friendly bald intelligent guy stretch my hand and invited me to go to a small typical corporate meeting room, it was already 7 pm and nobody else was at that office besides us. After a short introduction he started the coaching session, driving me through the technique and using all his skills as an expert live coach to take me  exactly until the point where I reached my own answers to my life time question: what is my purpose in life?

The temperature was comfortable, his speech fluent, secure, professional and friendly, my mind was running through all my life memories and finally the couch stop the chat, asked me the decisive question and suddenly my brain (which was calmed until that moment) exploded into a boiling pot of images and every blurred thought in my life became sharp: I understood that I was not using my brain´s natural abilities but on the contrary I was using exactly the ones I was weaker during my last 9 years when I started studying  industrial engineer (the career that I graduated from). What that meant is that I was forcing to maximum capacity my brain, using it in a wrong way influenced for all the conservative external influences that shape my life until that day and the worst: not using and taking advantage of my natural talents.

Rainbow in the Andes - © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Rainbow in the Andes by © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

After that moment I started a long search that lasted  3 years to understand where should I address my life.  I read tons of books, watched hundreds of movies, talked to dozens of people and tried some different options to discover that thing that I was really passionate for and you know what? the  answered was always inside of me, my mind and soul have known this answer since the first day I had conscience but the society, the rules and the city where I lived my childhood did a great job by burying deep inside of me that treasure diamond of my passion.

One year after, I received an email saying that my application to a master in public relations in an important university of USA was rejected, I had worked during 6 months, every day to enter to this master, so I started to feel completely disappointed and totally lost in my live, I put all my hopes into reaching that goal of the master but it didn’t happen. Days after, I decided to hear for the first time in my live my inner voice and made the decision to start a small course of photography (which I have always wanted to do), hoping to clean up my mind and soul from all that long battle to find my purpose in live.

The good news are that I fell in love with photography since the first minute of my first class from the small course and I kept doing some other small courses, but it wasn’t until the day I watch the Steve Jobs video at Stanford University when every single piece of the puzzle fit perfectly and I was able to connect all the dots in past to make the final decision to become a photographer. Yea, those dots were always there, around me and I didn’t see them before:

  • My addiction as a child and the tons of hours I spent watching the pictures of my mom’s magazines without even knowing how to read.
  • The using of a camera since my first years as a boy scout and the curiosity about the old Kodak camera from my Great Grand Father that we still keep at my home town.
  • The thousands of pictures I took when I was an exchange student in Kansas.  Me, as person was never inside of the frame of them but they were about moments or places that I lived, which for my mom was the worst thing not seeing my inside all those places I visited in USA, but now I know it was because I enjoyed to show on those pictures the reality that I was seeing through my eyes more than showing that I was physically in those places.
  • The huge wall I had in my room when I was an adolescent full of all the pictures from fashion campaigns from the 90’s that I use to cut off from magazines.
  • And finally my love as an adult to buy paintings from different artist for the deco of my flat.

All these things were the ones that came genuinely from my interior because I loved doing them and had an immense joy to develop, those ones were the true expressions of my interior and all of them were related to visual arts.

Picture by Colette L Photographie.

Picture by Colette L Photographie.

The rest is history: 3 years later I decided to sell everything I got from my 12 years of work in marketing and sales to come to Paris and become a newborn fashion photographer enjoying the passion for work everyday.

It´s not easy to start from zero again, living in a foreign country, developing an activity where you have no experience, having no connections, learning a new language, understanding another culture, etc. a 180 degree life change, but I  can assure you that this experience at my 38’s has been the most exciting experience I have ever had. At the end we have just one life to live and to spend it doing something you don’t feel passion for I feel is a waste… time is the only thing you can not buy to get it back afterwards.

Life will always show you the way and deep inside (heart, soul, mind or spirit) you will always know what is that thing that you love to do in your life, so my advice is to open your eyes to the opportunities you get, even though at the moment those aren´t  the ones you´re looking for and open the ears of your inner self , it will always be screaming at you what’s that thing that you truly love. Don´t let  the external influences block your inside call and don’t be afraid,  the worst thing that could happen is that you end up enriching your life by meeting a new world full of knowledge, experiences, people, languages, cultures and ways to see life.

Are you ready to make the change?

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Louvre Museum

The Louvre Pyramid by © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

PASHIONCASE (Passion – Fashion – Showcase)


 

Eiffel movement

Eiffel Movement – © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

It´s 2015 and it has been already 2 years and a half that I started a completely new journey in my life, a 180 degrees change from the traditional office life of a commercial manager to the adventure of becoming a photographer. It was a change from the natural environment of my country Colombia to the cosmopolitan jungle of Paris, from the comfortable use of my language spanish to the struggle of mastering the french, from the warm company of my friends and family to the sweetness of loneliness and new friends, from having all my life resolved to starting a new one with everything unsolved.

Making a change this big at 35 years old when you have your life already “settle” from the traditional point of view of modern society, I mean: good job, good salary, nice flat, nice car, amazing vacations and a lovely girl friend, could seem a case of a mental disease, but in reality what it means is precisely the opposite, a case of mental good health and you wonder why? and the answer it’s easy: because you should be crazy to decide what to do with your life putting first your economical security rather than what you are really passionate about…. and yes! I think that looking at money as a goal and not as a consequence, which is one of our society standards are making us go crazy.

No matter the cost you’ll have for you and your family the most important thing is to earn enough money to be able to buy your “happiness”, no matter if that means loosing all you money at the end paying for the shattered health you’ll have living a life where every minute you give to your job it’s a minute you lose to do something that you really love and I think you seriously should be crazy to make a decision like that for the rest of your life.

What we exchange for the salary that we receive at the end is Time, time of our lives, time that you’ll never get back because it’s already gone and there is no way to get back, so why are you making such a bad deal with your time? exchanging something so precious that nobody will be able to give it back to you again for something like money that for sure you can earn by doing something that will bring joy to every minute of you life?

Sunset in Popayan

Sunset in Popayán – © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Well, one day after 3 years of reading, thinking, watching videos, movies, talking to people and most important: learning how to listen to my inner voice, I had the chance to watch the video of the speech of Steve Jobs at the University of Stanford and among many of the interesting things he talks about there was one phrase that came to me and stroke me directly in my heart: “Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” ….and then I decided to quit my “normal” life and make a good deal by dedicating my life to my passion: photography and more specific fashion photography.

Today I’m opening this blog to showcase passion, fashion and photography stories , that’s why the name is a mix of those 3 words: Pass – shion – case (Passion + Fashion + Showcase. Here you’ll find stories of people from the fashion or photography industry that has decided to follow their passion or that want to talk about something they’ re passionate about and who has decided to live a life followed by what they really love to do every minute, without paying attention to what the standards of our society pray. Of course, you’ll also find the stories about my journey that are related to passion, photography and fashion photography.

Pictures by Colette L Photographie.

So, if you are or you know any young talent with an interesting passion story around photography, fashion photography or fashion and you’ll like to be showcased here, just send me an email to contact@lacuellar.com with a summary of the story and If it suits the purpose of the blog, I’ll be really glad showcase it here.

I Hope you enjoy the blog and that it can inspire you to keep following your passion or if you’re still doubting about it, I hope It’ll encourage you to make the big jump and make the decision to do what you really love. Cheers!!!

Self portrait

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