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!

The Ironic work of Thierry Bruet


Painter Thierry Bruet

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

SPANISH VERSION

I wanted to start inviting artists to my blog whose art at first sight could shake my heart and my brain at the same time, artists who were developing an original way to see, different from what we normally see around, but at the same time artists with a strong sense of critic of modern world.

One night when I went to bed decided to start searching on Instagram by hash tags and found this one: #parisart, slowly started to scroll down, in the middle of the complete darkness of my flat, just the light of my iphone was lighting my face, trying to find something who could attract my attention. Suddenly a painting full of amazing colors attracted my eyes as a magnet, I immediately tapped on it and when it opened my dual fibers connected, the painting was from French artist Thierry Bruet.

Painter Thierry Bruet

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Next morning, the first thing I did was to send an email to Thierry and Couple hours later that same day I received a phone call from a number I didn’t have registered, picked it up and in the other side I had the friendly, deep and dynamic voice of Thierry Bruet, telling me he wanted to arrange an appointment for the next day….When things are meant to happen, the doors open smoothly, with no effort.

Thierry Bruet paintings knocked my inner dual fiber for 3 reasons: first of all he´s using a classical technique to paint (which is unusual for this modern days), second the colors, contrasts and the way he use light are just amazing and third (and most important) the way he mocks society with his paintings, by combining characters from totally different eras of art, on situations that have an strong sense of critic using a caricaturized way to paint his characters which makes stronger the message he wants to send. When I asked him about this last reason, he said “I just paint people who you could easily find in the streets, people with a non traditional beauty for classic paintings, you can even find people with a more caricaturized appearance in real life, it’s just a different beauty that normally you will not find in classical paintings and that’s why I do it”.

Painter Thierry Bruet

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

The day of the shooting I arrived to his studio around 11:30 am, the morning was cold and cloudy, I opened door, passed through a curtain made out of a bubble wrap and there he was sitting on his sofa placidly smoking a cigarette while waiting for me. The ambiance in his studio is warm and cozy, with some low lights in the living room where you find a beautiful sofa escorted by a huge library and just besides the space where he paints, full of materials, sketches, frames and of course paintings made in the big format that he likes to use. Thierry offered me an espresso, he forgot to bring the sugar and Cesar (his partner, who’s  in charge of all the administrative issues which Thierry hates) remembers him to bring it to the table, we sat down in the living room, started talking, braking the ice and deciding how to start while we were enjoying the flavor of that coffee.

Painter Thierry Bruet

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Thierry is a self – taught painter, he’s been painting since he has memory and the first contact he had with the masters of art was when he was 5 years old and his grand father took him to the Louvre.  But the only person of the family related to arts was his aunt (the sister of his mother), who was working in the fine arts market with Paul Colin (a famous poster maker from the 30’s) and was the girlfriend of a famous French painter called Georges Mathieu who was into the lyric abstraction in the 50’s.

One day, her aunt ask him to giver her one of his paintings and she took it home, when Georges Mathieu came to visit her, he saw the work of Thierry and ask her: “Have you bought a Modigliani? ” Wow! A Modigliani painted by a child that was just having fun playing with paintings. Then she told Thierry the story, he felt very proud of it but  since he was just 7 years old, he couldn’t understand well what that meant but as he says “it was a way to feel good and continue painting all the time”.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Years after, he had to make a decision about his professional career, but he came from an industrial family (his father had an advertisement company), so studying fine arts at that time was not an option. He thought “I’m going to study something between both fields (industrial & arts), so I will do architecture”.

Ones he graduated, he started working as an architect in a design studio, he was in charge of doing the plans, years after he went deep in the business and ended up constructing buildings in Paris. But all the administrative management involved in that work just bored him, meanwhile he continued painting and the day of his first exhibition arrived . Little by little he started to get more involved into his work as a painter until the age of 35 when he finally decided to dedicate full time to be an artist. He has not followed the normal path of a painter and he has always painted with a classic technique and explains: “I think there is still a lot things to say with this style and since I want to send straight messages, the best way to keep it closer to reality is by using the classical style to paint.”

Painter Thierry Bruet

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

When I asked him about the reaction of the French public to his paintings, he says “There is some people here that like what I do, but in general the French public is a bit dull, they don’t have a vanguard mind set and always want the classic style”. He thinks art is today in the exact same moment of the 19th century, when the big “Salons de Peinture” were selling for a fortune the official painters and in the side there was a group of artists who were developing new concepts but nobody knew them. He says “Today museums don’t want to miss anything in art and even if they don’t understand it, they buy it due to their fear to pass over something that would be important in the future, but most of the time they end up buying crap and my art mocks that system”. At the end, he continuous living his day by day, he doesn’t like to make plans for the future and continue selling his art all around the world, his next exhibition will take place in Palm Beach in the month of April 2016.

That day, the 3 of us (Thierry, Cesar and me) had lunch together at his studio, Cesar brought a delicious pizza from a good Italian restaurant around the corner and the most amazing Eclaire du Cafe that I’ve had since living here in France. We talked about their taste for good restaurants in Paris, their love for the Island of Corsica and other regions around France worth to visit and at end we finish with the cherry on the pie talking a little bit about Napoleon.

Here is the way I saw Thierry Bruet  in his studio, hope you enjoy the pictures!

The French Kickback to the Terrorist Attacks.


Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

SPANISH VERSION

The isolation of the big capitals like Paris from the noise of the atrocities that take place around the world strengthens that feeling of being out of the reality of our planet, but history always handles to hit you in the face and nail down your feet to the ground to make you react and understand that you are not untouchable anymore or anywhere, that we are living a historic moment of humankind and we must open our eyes to the cruel reality.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

November 13th of 2015 in Paris was for me exactly one of those moments which arrived to shake my soul and make me understand the historic moment we are living in the world. One day after the terrorist attacks in Paris, I decided to go out in the streets with my camera, to visit the places where the attacks occurred and sumerge my self into the crowds,  melting my soul with the people of Paris in the middle of their reactions to this tragic event to try to capture in images all what I was watching for the next 5 days after the attacks .

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

I´m an immigrant in this country, I´ve been living here the last 3 years and still there are many things to learn and understand from the french culture, but these 5 days in the streets, living among the people, feeling their energy, listening to their talks, watching them, smelling the tragedy and touching the reality with my fingers have taught me more about them and about life than ever before since I put my feet on this country.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all right reserved.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved

I walked all the places of the attacks: Le Bataclan, Le Petite Cambodge, Le Carrillon, La rue de la Fontaine au Roi and La Place de la République (which is the main meeting point for parisians to do protests) and I felt that heavy syrup of sadness slipping directly into my soul, spreading its bitter flavor from one person to the other in complete silence, a silence that speaks through the eyes of every person out loud, a silence of sadness but at the same time a silence of courage because Parisians are not afraid of these barbarians who want to eliminate the word Freedom as one of the core values of the french nation. It was very touching, specially because I have been at least one time in all of the places where the attacks occurred having a beer, a coffee or dinning with different friends, so I could not stop thinking: it could have been me!

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

One of the things that has amazed me about french in all theses days, is the way they have reacted to the attacks in general, instead of feeling afraid and staying locked at their places, they have been out in the streets, visiting the places of the attacks doing pilgrimage of mourning to accompany their compatriots, they have been in the terraces of the restaurants having a coffee or having dinner with their friends, they have been gathering to protest and to sing the songs of freedom and french nationalism, in summary they kept living their normal parisian life full of activity outside in the streets. Their reaction seems to represent very well the phrase of Mahatma Gandhi: “When there is a storm, the birds hide themselves and the eagles fly higher”, I guess is the legacy of centuries that this city has  and that´s even written on their city shield: “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur” which means “Tossed but not sunk”.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

The attacks were a direct threat to the value of freedom that french have enacted and protected since the french revolution, a value that they have understood is the cornerstone of their society, for sure there is no better culture in the world than the french to understand what is the holistic meaning of the word Freedom. But these terrorist seem to don´t understand this about french culture and by doing this type of terrorist attacks, instead of sending a message of fear and submission, what they are achieving is to make a stronger union of french society against them, a union that is not afraid at all and the most important a union that is powered for the young people, the new generations that were the main victims of November 13th, a union that is joint together by the deep desire to defend that word Freedom.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

Another thing that has impressed me about the french, is their culture to debate and specially in moments of crisis like this one. When you arrive to places related to the attacks like Le Bataclan or La Place de la République, you will find during the whole day groups of people that gather together to debate, not about what happened but instead about what they have to do now to change or overcome this situation.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

French love deeply to debate, with ideas, with criteria and debate between two people, can easily evolve to a huge crowd of 20 or 30 people, where the word of every person that wants to speak is heard and respected and at the same time refuted by the ones that don’t agree in the most respectful ambience. I’ve seen in those debates people from different religions, social status, color of skin or education level exchanging their points of view and constructing a productive debate to advance to concrete ideas and actions. It shows the evolution of a society where the differences are accepted and can live together, an idea which is completely opposite to the idea of the terrorist of a society where there could only exist one way to think and live.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

The flavor that remains in my heart, my mind and my soul after all these days being in the middle of the people and the places of the attacks is a flavor of bittersweet, a mix between the deep sadness, the immense courage and decision of the french people to show that they are not afraid and they will fight for their freedom until the end by keep living their daily life with no restrictions, which for me has been the first and most important kickback that the people of France has gave to the terrorist. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but what I’m really sure is that the seed for a change in the french society have been sown past November 13th and it will keep growing big nourished by the courage and freedom of the french society.

Here are the images I made in all these 5 days, hope they help you to understand a bit what I felt.

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Cheers!

 

THE FLIGHT OF THE EAGLE – Aerial Photography Journey.


© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

The cellphone vibrates one time, it´s a whatsapp message, I`m concentrated on the computer, scrolling down, looking at some pictures from Paris I had taken the week before, I´m looking, thinking, selecting, feeling and remembering the seconds which are embedded in each of those pictures. I continue working, the Iphone still remains there, in the table by the keyboard and again it vibrates 3 more times, the creak of the vibration against the old green wood of my desk disconnects me from my photo world, I turn my head and look at it, grab it in my hand to see the message, the screen shows I have a message from my friend and brother in Paris Gabo and it says: Alejo, how are you? I´m going to fly this weekend, do you want to come with me?

I immediately had contrasted feelings, I wanted to say yes! I´m going! but at the same time the fear appeared inside of me since I know it will be a learning flight for my friend. I think, I feel, I think and I feel again, some minutes passed by before answering the message, the battle of the heart and the reason goes on inside my body, finally as it has been for me in the last years, the heart wins and 5 minutes later I answer the message: ¨Hey Gabo, I´m good! sure, let`s do it!”

Two weeks went by and here I´m am on a saturday early morning, packing my equipment and getting ready, waiting for Gabo to arrive on his blue Peugeot 208 to pick me up. I finish everything and sit down in the couch, in the middle of the silence of my flat at 7:30 am in the morning.  I can hear my breath slowly going in and out of my nose, I start relaxing, feeling comfortable, the rhythm of my breath starts slowing his speed, I start getting sleepy and suddenly the cellphone vibrates again, I got a whatsapp message: “Alejo, I`m here just outside, let´s go!”

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

One hour after,  we are arriving to the Aéroclub Aigle de St-Maur, a sunny and bright day just perfect for  the adventure welcomes us in the aviation club. Ones I cross the door I enter to a world that feels back like in the past century. The first thing I see is the wooden desk of the counter with the logo of an eagle, all the chairs, colors, sofas and interior design in general has kept this flavor of the 80´s, I continue walking until the back of the room where there is a foosball and an old coffee machine, I see a brownish, padded old sofa that is inviting me strongly with its shape to sit down and relax, the smell of coffee reaches my noise and I start to relax again while I wait for Gabo who is in a small room preparing the flight with Jim his flight instructor.

Thirty minutes went by and we´re ready to board the small plane, a Robin DR-400 painted in blue and white stripes; while I´m going up I realize that the plain is mainly made by a really light and fragile material, Gabo tells me exactly where is the metallic part of the wing to put my foot and get inside the  cabin, I go to the back seat, Gabo goes in the front left side and Jim in the right front, the instructor gives me the headphones and ask me to put them on to see if they are working, ones I do it, a typical radio noise comes into my ears asking me if I hear him, I just say yes!

The engine is on, we start moving and my heart starts beating more strongly, I hear through the headphones a technical language between Gabo, Jim and the control tower, I don´t understand anything of their talk, from that moment ahead I´m completely alone in the trip, they are on their business and I have to prepare for mine.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Ten minutes after, the tiny plane is ready to take off with the 3 of us inside, I see Gabo`s hand pulling thoroughly the accelerator and we start going really fast to take off, every single atom of that plane is shaking and I can feel all those vibrations going through my body, suddenly the nose of the plain goes up and we lift off, I can feel the wind crashing strongly to the plane, everything is moving strongly, Gabo makes a small turn right losing the balance of the plane, a strong sensation of vertigo overrun my body through all of my cells reaching the bottom of my soul, after 3 seconds Gabo corrects the maneuver, we are again on the right position and for the first time in my life I have the real sensation of flying, it´s  like riding a pegasus with just a couple of wings to keep us in the air.

Fifteen minutes later we are starting to prepare to land in another airport, I have started taking pictures long time ago, trying to get the frames I imagined, trying to be keen when I press the shooter in an environment where everything is shaking, even my breath.Gabo and Jim are concentrated on their business, we are landing and 10 seconds after we do it, we are taking off again without stoping the plane, all in the same run,  all in one move; again the plane vibrates strongly, the wind is hitting us like the ocean hits the rocks of a cliff, this time Gabo manages to make a smooth turn right and then after few seconds we are high in the sky again. We did the same operation 5 times, landing and taking off of the same airport track, until the end of the lesson when we went back to the first airport were we took off.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

One hour later I was again sitting in the brownish sofa by the foosball, I´m not anymore the same person, I have experienced how is to fly a small plane and literally feel the wind under your feet, I have changed as a person, I have one more story to tell, I have traveled in a different way for the first time and specially I have a strong dizziness to handle before coming back again to the normal life.

Thanks to Gabo again for inviting me to this aerial ride!!! Here is the photography of the adventure, the aerial and the ground pictures, I hope you enjoy them.

Cheers!


Firma Blog

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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!

Firma Blog cropped-lac201308120029.jpg

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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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I Dont Want to Shoot Models.


STYLAGALMAIC

Tribal Invader by © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

 

The first fashion magazine Les Mondes was published in Paris in January 1901, in those beginnings the name of the model did not appear in the credits of the pictures because it was not important as it is stated in the book Fashion Body Cult:  “The work of professional mannequins and photo models was not considered a respectable career and this females had rather seedy reputations right up until between the two world wars.”

For my first fashion shoot, a friend lend me his small apartment by Place de la Republique, the day was gray and cold, I woke up early in the morning to have all my equipment ready, grabbed the metro and arrived one hour before the shoot to set everything. I remember how nervous I was because I didn´t have any idea of how to do a fashion shoot and I had to work with the make up artist and the model pretending to have done this type of work many times before.

Addiction

Killer Love by © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

The make up artist arrived, a friendly french-asian girl, with amazing light brown eyes, we talked about the script and got ready for the model. At this moment, I had in my mind more questions to solve than answers to give to my team for this shoot. The model arrived on time, she lived in a village outside of Paris, a beautiful, tender and soft girl; we started to do the make up, talked about the script and one hour after we started shooting. Everything went well and smooth, we finish the shoot, both (model and makeup artist) said Bye to me and I was again alone in my friend´s apartment happy with the result of the shoot, but most important, with one thing clear in my mind: what I wanted to do was fashion photography from there onwards.

I had this same ritual during the next fashion shoots: the team arrived, the model arrived, the make up & hair were done, we  talked about the script, we shoot, we finish, everybody leaves and I was alone again.  That´s how it is normally goes in every fashion shoot, of course there is chat, exchange of experiences, work and different vibes like any other job…. but I had always the feeling that something was missing, something was not making sense for me at the end of each of those shoots, even though when the result as a team was great because we got the pictures we were looking for, there was always a feeling of emptiness in some part of my soul.

The work of a model is really tough, it´s not just being beautiful and posing in front a camera to get the pictures or the video, it involves a strong knowledge of the body from the top of the head to the little toe, they have to build their bodies with long hours of exercise, take care of what they eat, be ready to work no matter how they´re feeling that day, spend long hours going to castings, waiting and running from one place to the other and spend long ours working in the shooting. At the end everybody is interested on using the model as a canvas to paint the story that the they want.

STYLAGALMAIC

Tribal Invader by © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Today I feel that models are becoming like when the first fashion magazine Les Mondes appeared, objects: a beautiful, well prepared, expensive object;  you can see it even more in the catwalks where they don´t show any emotion and even some brands don´t even want people to know who they are by covering their faces with beautiful masks or any other object to make their audiences concentrate in the clothes. As I said before, the goal of that object called model is to be the best canvas, with the exact texture, measurements, colors and quality that the client wants to paint, but who cares about the person that lives inside that physically beautiful canvas? I´m very sure at the end nobody cares about it, the business just use them to reach their goals…….until that moment when they becomes famous and the canvas gets a name and a history that makes everybody to be interested about its life story. Now I know this is exactly what I felt was missing after every fashion shoot: Besides shooting the model, also shooting the person,  that was that thing which disturbs me deep inside. So I thought, how am I going to shoot the person and not just the model? my answer was: to shoot them playing a story about something they really love to do: their passion.

I started to contact model agencies and arranging castings, where I could have time to really meet the person that lies inside of the model.  What I found was the confirmation of what I was thinking: Nobody cares about the person that lies inside the model. How did I find it out? well, during the castings I started to talk with them about their life, passions, stories, goals, dreams, etc and since the first model to the last one I interviewed last week, all of them told me it was the first time instead of posing or walking or showing a portfolio, somebody was interested  about their lives as persons.

Addiction

Killer Love by © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

I´m filmily convinced that for Pashioncase I don´t want to shoot models, I want to shoot Persons with real stories from their lives, playing their own life story based in the passion they have. I want to meet the person (or at least a small part of it), I want to give them the space to show to the world an intimate piece of their soul and I want to interpret that intimate part they share with me through my eyes.

To finish: I know a professional model should be able to get the result that the client wants without thinking if her style, life or passions go with the brand or designer concept and I´m not pretending to criticize or change the way it works, I know and I understand it is the way it is,  but I think brands and designers should care a lot more about the person inside the model and not just to see them as one more piece of the marketing strategy.

I know I can be naive, but I imagine that getting to know the person who lives inside the models, knowing their passions, their fashion style or their way of seeing life and matching the right person (model) with the values of the brand, for sure will give a 100 times better results or at least more human than the work done with a model who does not identifies with the brand, at the end the models are persons who (as everybody else) give life to fashion, as Marc Jacobs said: “Clothes mean nothing, until someone lives on them.”

Cheers!!!

Firma Blog

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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.