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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The Controversial Art of Oh de Laval


Theater at Trocadero from the movie The Dreamers by Bertolucci. © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Street at Strasbourg St-Dennis from the movie Une Femme est une Femme by Godard. © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Here I am, in a bright and sunny day inside the darkness of the metro, going to meet Oh de Laval at popular neighborhood Strasbourg St Dennis, my head is full of thoughts intrigued by the mysterious personality of this young Polish painter, I have been talking with her through Facebook during the last month and a half, trying to step inside her world to imagine the best way to photograph her. I step out of the metro and finally see her from the back, waiting for me just outside de exit, with a sporty outfit and a small backpack, I arrive from behind, she turns her head, we see each other in the distance, a smile comes out of our souls and then we finally say hi face to face.

Oh de Laval is a Paris lover, she’s always in Paris for her birthday the 7 of January, celebrating with her friends around Strasbourg-St Dennis, le Marais and Cafe la Perle near Picasso museum. During our conversations in Facebook before she came to Paris, I found that she has a deep knowledge about the movies that has been filmed in this city, so I decided to photographed her in the places where those movies were filmed, giving her the opportunity to put her own personality inside the ambiance of those movies. From her list I picked Une Femme est un Femme from Jean-luc Godard shot entirely at Strasbourg-St Denis, The Dreamers from Bernardo Bertolucci which was filmed by the iconic Cafe Valois and at Trocadero theater and finally Last Tango in Paris  by Bernardo Bertolucci filmed in the area of Bir-Hakeim.

Pictures done in places related to the movies Une Femme est une Femme, the dreamers and last tango in paris.

Her personality is as controversial as her work full of color, violence, sex and love, you will never guess which will be her answer to the next question. While we were having a coffee in a traditional Parisian cafe by the Porte St. Dennis, I called her an artist and she immediately replied “I’m not calling myself an artist, I’m a painter. I’m the only one who knows which one of my paintings is art and which one isn´t, if I can finish the painting with the idea that I want, it’s art for me, if not it’s just a painting.” and she continuous by saying “I just paint because I like it, people come and go, one day they like you and the next day they don’t, one day they like one of my paintings and the next one they don’t like it because it’s too violent. I think that if you like someone`s work, you should like everything of it, people like to put artist in boxes: abstract, portrait, landscape, etc. but one person is made of many different layers.”

Theater at Trocadero from the movie The Dreamers by Bertolucci. © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

When Oh de Laval was 19 went to the school of design but she quitted because it was too hard for her, she didn´t felt the freedom to do what she wanted. Right after she started to paint and unexpectedly, she received the strong support of one of her teachers from the design school who made her life difficult while she was a student. Today she paints full-time, her art is managed by a young Parisian girl who she found through instagram looking to meet somebody in the city, the girl end up being an art student, they met and went out to Bastille, got drunk and days after she became her manager.

Street at Strasbourg St-Dennis from the movie Une Femme est une Femme by Godard. © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

When people says that her work has an influence of Picasso she says: “I don’t see it! Actually, one time during one of my vernissages in Paris a guy told me that my work looked like Picasso, and I asked him: why didn’t you say it looks like George Braque? and he replied, because the only cubist I know is Picasso…so?” and then she adds “I’m more influenced by Francis Bacon, not in the style but in the subject matter. He’s not my inspiration as a painter, but more like a person, he was very cool guy and I like the way he lived.”

Porte de St. Dennis from the movie Une Femme est une Femme by Godard. © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

I continued digging inside her personality, I take a new zip of my coffee, looked her straight to the eyes and very intrigued by the continuous use of different kinds of violence mixed with sex on her work, I asked her why and she says “Because it has a strong impact on people, it moves some strong emotions, you have to kick people’s ass to make them move, as Francis Bacon said: The art that has no balls, has no value”.  That answer was in contradiction with the person who I was watching in front of me,  when you see her, you can only think about tenderness and love, with a soft voice and sweet face you can only imagine an angel fallen from the sky, and then she gives me the final thrust by saying “I have a horrible character, I’m very terrorist, I’m the only child at home and I always have to get what I want.”

Theater at Trocadero from the movie The Dreamers by Bertolucci. © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Oh de Laval. © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

My cup of tea was almost empty, a sign that we should step out into the streets to start shooting, but I had one last question in my mind and as I said before, her answer was also unexpected…Do you have a boyfriend? “I completely quit the idea to have a boyfriend, I don’t want to spend time on it, I spent the best years of my life with guys and since I can have many boyfriends, why should I think to have just one? We humans are not monogamous by nature and also not sedentary, I love to keep moving and traveling and at the end of my life I want to have my grave in Barcelona.”

Strasbourg St. Denis neighborhood from the movie Une Femme est une Femme movie by Godard. © L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

After that last answer, we walked to each one of the places from the selection of movies that I picked, to paint with light the way I saw her that day.

Cheers!

 

 

 

 

The Magnetic Energy of Actress Madeleine Pougatch


Madeleine Pougatch

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

I meet Madeleine for the fist time on a cloudy and cold day at the end of 2015, we met at the metro station Hotel de Ville exit of rue de Rivoli and immediately we headed towards a cafe bar three blocks from there. We sat down in one of those small tables with a typical red couch in one of the sides and in the other a normal chair, I let her pick the side and she sits in the couch. The waiter arrives, she orders a strong cocktail, strong as her personality and right away, I started to be bombarded by all that avalanche of energy that she emanates, specially through her big emerald color eyes.

Actress Madeleine Pougatch at canal st. martin.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Actress Madeleine Pougatch at canal st. martin.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Madeleine is an actress by choice and by passion, since she was a 3-year-old child she was always looking where was a camera to stand in front of it, she had this strong desire to live a life in front of the lens. she almost felted like a jealousy of the actors that she was watching on the movies. Ever since, she used to create plays with her brothers and sisters  where she was always acting, but also directing and disguising them to personify each of the characters.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

When the moment to decide about her professional career arrived, acting couldn´t be an option since her family was not related to the field and she didn´t know anybody in that world, so she decided to do a bachelor in Hospitality Management. Nevertheless, the first day of class when the teacher asked her what she wanted to do after the school, rather than answering she wanted to be an entrepreneur or a business woman, she said “I want to be an actress and singer”, because she also uses of her sexy  hoarse voice to sign, actually in this moment she’s working a piece of music with Jerome Goldet who is the bassist of Mathieu Chedid, et  Vanessa Paradis.

Actress Madeleine Pougatch at canal st. martin.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

She always knew her passion was acting and ones she finished her bachelor, she decided to go full-time into the search of her real dream, as she says “There is just one life, I didn’t want to have regrets and so I decided to go deeply on it”. It was only until she was 22 years old that she started to study theater at Cours Simon . Since then things have been evolving as an actress, last week for example, she was at St. Petersburg presenting her first main role in an independent film called “Particulier à Particulier”, which was first presented in Paris in an independent festival. The film is completely filled by her character and as she says “if you don’t like me as an actress, you’re not going to like the film.”

This time we met at a typical crepes restaurant by the Canal St. Martin called Lulu La Nantaise, small and cozy ambiance, with tables that are as big as the scope of your own breath, she ordered a Salmon crepe and in my side I got a chicken cheese and honey mustard one. But of course, when we were ordering the drinks, Madeleine  recommended me to try the cider, which is a french apple wine, we got a jar for the two of us. Of course I have to thanks her because the recommendation was great, it was the best starter to warm up our tiny table and our shooting.

Actress Madeleine Pougatch at canal st. martin.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

The food arrived, we started to eat and went deeply in a conversation about her life and she made me understand that the fascination she has for acting is because it allows her to live all the stories she can’t in real life, as she said “if I would do in real life, what I do in the scene, I would become completely crazy: killing a baby, being a lawyer, being a crazy mother in law, etc. As an actress, I can do all those things which I have the desire to do a little bit, but in real life I can’t. At the end, what I love of acting is that it makes me vibrate and there is no other thing in life that can make me feel like that”

Actress Madeleine Pougatch at canal st. martin.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Actress Madeleine Pougatch at canal st. martin.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Right now, she also working mainly in two projects: a role in a french TV show called “Joséphine Ange Gardien” of TF1, she will be playing a young 16th years old girl during the 60´s, who got pregnant and has to abandon her baby.  The second project, is a role in a film where she had to work in the snow, up in the mountains with a beautiful sled dog, shooting in a T-shirt under the cold winter and doing scenes where she had to put her feet and arms completely inside the snow.  She’s also working in a project for a group of 30 students inspired in Maurice Pialat, at the same time she will be filming for a director of the école de la cité  who wrote a film inspired on her as actress, she says to inspire someone to create a story is “The grail of any actor”

Actress Madeleine Pougatch at canal st. martin.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

Meanwhile, we were eating and in between the sounds of the cutlery hitting the plates and the noise of the talks of the tiny tables besides us, I asked her which would be her dream roll? She looks up and after a fraction of a second without any shadow of a doubt she says: “I would like to represent Charlotte Corday, the noble girl who killed the french revolution leader Jean-Paul Marat inside his own house while taking a bath. She was sentenced to the guillotine dressed in a red which represented the betrayers who had killed a representative of the people. But, in general I would like to do different roles, change from one genre to the other, from comedy, to drama, to action, to history, etc” She looks down to her plate and continues eating.

Actress Madeleine Pougatch at canal st. martin.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

We finished our lunch and with the stomach full and the soul warmed up by the cider, we went out to hit the streets of this neighborhood by the Canal St. Martin, but wait! she says, before I have to smoke a cigarette. The area of Canal St. Martin is one of the places which Madeleine likes the most in Paris, she says: “it is a very Parisian area, with a huge population of young people and with an immense diversity of places for the social live: bars ,restaurants, cafes, brasseries and of course the sidewalks of the canal which become a picnic area during the spring and summer” and since I like construct the visual stories around something attached to my guests, we went there to do our shoot.

Actress Madeleine Pougatch at canal st. martin.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

To finish I just have to say that while I´m writing finishing to write this post, I´m watching live on Internet the visit of Barack Obama to Cuba, the fist visit of president from United States in more than 50 years, at the same time is Monday of Eastern and it is also Full moon … too many coincidences for one day and I can predict that is because also with Madeleine we are being witness of the birth of a new star.

© L.A. Cuellar, All Rights Reserved.

So, here is the photo story about my walk with her, a very passionate actress that I´m sure will reach all her goals and will delight us with her talent and explosive energy through the screen for many years.

Cheers!

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!

 

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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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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