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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El Contragolpe Francés a los Ataques Terroristas.


Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

ENGLISH VERSION

El aislamiento de las grandes capitales como París del ruido de las atrocidades que están sucediendo en todo el mundo crea una sensación de estar fuera de la realidad de nuestro planeta, sin embargo la historia siempre se encarga de golpearnos en la cara y atornillarnos los pies a la tierra, haciéndonos reaccionar y entender que ya no somos intocables en ningún lugar, que estamos viviendo un momento histórico de la humanidad y que debemos abrir los ojos para despertar a la cruda realidad.

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

El 13 de noviembre de 2015 en París fue para mí exactamente uno de esos momentos que llegaron para sacudirme el alma y hacerme entender el momento que estamos viviendo hoy en el mundo. Un día después de los ataques terroristas en París, decidí salir a la calle con mi cámara, para visitar los lugares donde ocurrieron los ataques, sumergiéndome en las multitudes, derritiendo mi alma con el pueblo de París en medio de sus reacciones a este trágico evento para tratar de capturar en imágenes todo lo que estaba viendo durante los 5 días siguientes a los ataques.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

Soy un inmigrante en este país, he estado viviendo aquí desde hace 3 años y todavía hay muchas cosas que aprender y entender de la cultura francesa, pero estos 5 días en las calles, viviendo entre la gente, sintiendo su energía, escuchando sus conversaciones, observándolos, oliendo la tragedia y tocando la realidad con mis dedos me han enseñado más que nunca  sobre ellos y sobre la vida desde que pise por primera vez este país.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all right reserved.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved

Caminé por todos los lugares de los ataques: Le Bataclan, Le Petite Cambodge, Le Carrillon, La rue de la Fontaine au Roi y La Place de la République (que es el principal punto de encuentro de los Parisinos para hacer protestas) y sentí el denso jarabe de la tristeza deslizarse directamente en mi alma, difundiendo su sabor amargo de una persona a otra en completo silencio, un silencio que hablaba a través de los ojos de cada persona en voz alta, un silencio de tristeza, pero al mismo tiempo, un silencio de coraje porque los Parisinos no tienen miedo de estos bárbaros que quieren eliminar la palabra libertad como uno de los valores fundamentales de la nación Francesa. Fue muy conmovedor, especialmente porque yo personalmente he estado al menos una vez en todos los lugares donde ocurrieron los ataques tomando una cerveza, un café o comiendo con amigos, así que no podía dejar de pensar: podría haber sido yo!

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

Una de las cosas que me ha sorprendido de los franceses durante todos estos días, es la forma en que han reaccionado a los ataques en general, en vez de sentir miedo y permanecer encerrados en sus lugares, han estado en las calles, visitando los lugares de los ataques, haciendo una peregrinación de luto para acompañar a sus compatriotas, han salido a las terrazas de los restaurantes a tomar un café o cenar con sus amigos, se han estado reuniendo para protestar y cantar canciones de libertad y nacionalismo francés, en resumen han mantenido viva su vida cotidiana Parisina, llena de actividad en las calles. Su reacción parece representar muy bien la frase de Mahatma Gandhi: “Cuando hay una tormenta, los pájaros se esconden y las águilas vuelan más alto”, supongo que es el legado de siglos que esta ciudad tiene y que está incluso escrito en su escudo de armas: “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur“, que significa “Sacudida pero nunca hundida”.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

Los ataques fueron una amenaza directa contra el valor de la libertad que los Franceses han promulgado y protegido desde la revolución francesa, un valor que han entendido como la piedra angular de su sociedad, de seguro que no hay mejor cultura en el mundo que la francesa para entender de manera holística cuál es el significado de la palabra Libertad. Pero estos terroristas parecen no entender eso y al hacer este tipo de ataques, en lugar de enviar un mensaje de miedo y sumisión, lo que están logrando es crear una unión más fuerte de los franceses en su contra, una unión que no tiene miedo en absoluto y lo más importante una unión que está alimentada por los jóvenes, las nuevas generaciones que fueron las principales víctimas del 13 de noviembre, una unión que está articulada entre sí por el profundo deseo de defender esa palabra Libertad.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

Otra cosa que me ha impresionado de los franceses, es su cultura de debate y especialmente en momentos de crisis como éste. Al llegar a los lugares relacionados con los atentados como Le BataclanLa Place de la République, uno se encuentra durante todo el día grupos de personas que se reúnen para debatir, no sobre lo que pasó, sino sobre lo que tienen que hacer ahora para cambiar o superar esta situación.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

L.A. Cuellar, all rights reserved.

Los Franceses aman profundamente debatir, con las ideas, con criterios y un debate entre dos personas puede evolucionar fácilmente a una gran multitud de 20 o 30, donde la palabra de cada persona que quiere hablar es escuchada y respetada, y al mismo tiempo refutada por los que no están de acuerdo dentro de un ambiente respetuoso. He visto en esos debates personas de diferentes religiones, estatus sociales, color de piel o nivel de educación intercambiando sus puntos de vista y haciendo un debate productivo para avanzar hacia ideas y acciones concretas. Es la muestra de la evolución de una sociedad en donde se aceptan las diferencias y estas pueden vivir juntas, una idea que es completamente opuesta a la idea de los terroristas de una sociedad donde sólo pueda existir una manera de pensar y de vivir.

Paris Attacks Nov. 13 2015

El sabor que me queda en el corazón, la mente y el alma después de tantos días de estar en medio de la gente y los lugares de los ataques es un sabor agridulce, una mezcla entre la tristeza profunda, la inmensa valentía y la decisión del pueblo francés para mostrar que no tienen miedo y que van a luchar por su libertad hasta el final , van a luchar por seguir viviendo su vida cotidiana sin restricciones, lo cual yo entiendo como el primer contragolpe que el pueblo francés le ha dado a los terroristas. No sé lo que va a pasar a continuación, de lo que si estoy muy seguro es que la semilla de un cambio en la sociedad francesa se ha sembrado el pasado 13 de noviembre y seguirá creciendo grande,  alimentada por la valentía y la libertad de esta sociedad.

Aquí están las imágenes que hice en todos estos 5 días, espero que les ayuden a entender un poco lo que yo sentí.

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Cheers!

 

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!

 

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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A Polygamous Photo Love: The Eiffel Tower and me.


The first time I came to Paris as a tourist in 2011 I felt in love with the Eiffel Tower and I know this is something that happens to almost everybody that comes to this city, but in my case I have made a magical relation between the both of us and I’m going to tell you why.

Eiffel Tower by LACuellar

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

I remember our first encounter was like those flirting moments in a bar while you’re watching a girl you like in the middle of the crowd, following her with your eyes while she moves in the middle of the people, at the same time you start also moving towards her to approach and start a conversation, you notice that she’s also looking at you, that you have made a strong eye contact while both are moving like dancing a bolero.  The crowd is thick, there are seconds when you lose her from you sight and you feel confused but then she appears again in the middle of crowd, each time closer to you and finally comes that moment when you stand in front of her and say hi and a burst of adrenaline runs strongly from your brain to the point of your thumb.

Eiffel Tower by LACuellar

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Exactly like that was my first time with the Eiffel tower, I started a walk in the middle of Paris (with no gps, I was using a normal map), looking for her and since this city blocks are not regular rectangles, while I had her in my sight in one corner, I was losing her in the next one, like in the middle of the crowd of the club, I had moments of joy and confusion while approaching her,  until I finally arrived in front of her after taking a corner in an unexpected place and I felt that burst of adrenaline in my body and our photo love story began.

Many artist have had to do with the Eiffel tower, just to mention some: Marc Chagall with his painting “Paris vu par la fenêtre”, Jean Cocteau with his Musical theatre “Mariés de la Tour Eiffel” or Elliott Erwitt with his famous picture “Eiffel tower 100th anniversary” and I could keep mentioning hundreds, plus the thousands of pictures she gets from people everyday. I know I’m just another one of her lovers, another passion story out of the millions she has had during her 126 years of existence but in my mind she has been there just for me.

Eifferl Tower by LACuellar

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

I have this polygamous relation with her and I say polygamous because as I said before, she is also in love relations with millions of other lovers from all around the world, but I don’t care, for me our relation has been a private one.  I have seen her through my lens, that means through my personal way to see and that also means through my heart, which is unique and she has been always there to pose only for me whenever I want, no matters the hour, date or temperature, she’s always available for me to give her best angle.

LACuellar and the Eiffel Tower

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

I’m a fashion photographer but above all, I’m a visual addict who likes to capture images that produce on me a feeling that moves my soul from its normal state and that feeling is exactly what I have had with each picture I have from the Eiffel Tower. Each one of them has that special input (the light, the colors, the people, the moment, the angle, etc) that has touch my heart, stroke my soul and move my eye to take it, because as a photographer I understand what is the meaning of capturing for ever a moment of live that will never come back after the second you freeze it forever in you camera.

So here are some of the pictures of our polygamous photo love during these 2 years and half relation while living in Paris… enjoy!

Playing with the people…

By the Seine…    

Just the top of her…

Night flirting…

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