Vanessa Colareta : "Migration is a topic that has been widely developed in contemporary art"
How did your passion for photography start and why did you chose still life?
My interest in photography arose while studying painting at the National School of Fine Arts in Lima. Later, I got a scholarship to study at the Polytechnic University of Valencia where I specialized in new media. I started researching about female migration while I was studying the MA in Visual Arts and Multimedia. While I was looking for a photographic genre to work with, I attended a conference by Mieke Bal. One of the ideas developed was the usefulness of an anachronistic analysis of the work of art as a tool to get closer to contemporary issues. I opted for still life photography from Bal's idea and from an investigation about the possibilities of this genre of painting.
Does a minimum quantity of components always allow you to express fully your idea?
One of the first paintings that I analyzed was "Still Life" by Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbaran. It appears to be a simple painting. It represents three vessels, two plates and a cup. Two of the three vessels are commonly known as "Alcarrazas Trianeras", people used them to store water. They were manufactured in Spain but they are of Arabic origin. The third vessel is a "Bucaro of the Indias", a container brought from the Viceroyalty of New Spain. The cup is probably gilded silver and the dishes were made of pewter. Thus, a seemingly simple still life can relate through their elements the economy of a home, part of a country's history and can talk about colonialism. The food also has a great symbolic potential that can transport you through different cultures and can talk about politics and economics. I have done many still life photos with few elements. In both cases the images are powerful because they try to suggest a geographical route taken by a woman, but also suggest contemporaneity and coexistence of different lifestyles by its elements.|
How do you come to the choice of compositional elements?
The photographs from the Migrant and Exodus series recreate paintings of the Spanish Golden Age to address female migration. Each photograph was built from a painting and a particular case of female migration. The elements of the compositions were chosen considering the Still Life I reinterpret and the geographical journey that every woman made.
Please name photographers or artists whose work you are interested in. Perhaps you are a fan of someone's talent?
I like many artists: Rinko Kawauchi, Wolfgang Tillmans, Nan Goldin, Rineke Dijstra, Sophie Calle, David Hockney, Isaac Julien and Kim Sooja. I also like the work of: Ferran Gisbert, Manuel Blasquez, Greta Alfaro, Bleda y Rosa, Jose Carlos Martinat, Maya Watanabe, Daniela Ortiz and Jimena Kato.
How much time is usually required to achieve the final result and form the final composition?
I do not have an exact amount of time to take pictures. Some take longer than others. The working process is quite long and is composed of several stages. Some of the steps I should complete to get a photograph are: getting testimonials, decide which Still Life to do, get the elements of each Still Life, place the scene, do the shooting, post-production, etc.
What is the main goal/purpose of your work?
In the Migrant and Exodus series my main goal has been to give visibility to the female migration issue through the artistic practice. The Migrant series was awarded at the Sony World Photography Awards 2013, I was named Professional Photographer of the Year in Still Life category. This was a great opportunity for the project to be publicized in the media worldwide. This award and doing this interview makes me think I am reaching my goals.
How do you think you have managed to achieve a dramatic context in your works?
My work focuses on issues related to immigration and gender equality. Both are part of contemporary debates that are quite politicized.
In order to address women's migration I made a research on this phenomenon and its main problems. This included interview with associations working with immigrants and particularly with women. Then I prepared a questionnaire for women immigrant focusing on the main problems of this group such as family separation, labor possibilities and identity issues.
How does still life help you in this?
The still life photography has a great potential for symbolism due to the objects used in its composition. Through them it is possible to address political, economic, social, cultural and geographical issues. Religious themes, moral lessons and topics about life and death were also discussed in the symbolic tradition of the still life. This genre was unappreciated in paintings about war or religious topics maybe because its elements are associated with femininity.
In the Migrant and Exodus series I used this symbolic charge to address female migration and other aspects such as globalization and multiculturalism.
Each still life photograph is constructed from the testimony of a woman. Excerpts from this testimony follow the photograph. The fact that the work is made up of text and picture suggests a dialogue between them and completes the meaning of the work.
Do you feel that you can achieve a certain purpose in life through your artwork, and how you think your works can help you with this mission?
I approach issues that worry me starting from my personal experience. The idea of working on migration arose when I came to Spain, and also to observe how the society in which I live changes. Spain began to have a significant immigration from the year two thousand, but this has changed. The recent economic crisis encourages people to go abroad. This interesting movement of migratory flows was one of the motivations for the realization of the series. Similarly, I could see when I lived in Lima how people leave the city for different reasons and all these experiences are reflected in my artwork.
What does the upcoming exhibition mean to you and how it can influence your career. What you expect from your career as a photographer in the future?
I am very happy with my next exhibition in Nunc Contemporary. I am delighted to show my work in Antwerp, a city where some Still Life Painters I admire have been born. Regarding my expectations, I have the best. I hope in the future to continue developing my projects and grow professionally.
Do you expect any feedback from the European public to the issue raised in your series. Do you think that the exhibition will draw attention to the problems of emigration?
Migration is a topic that has been widely developed in contemporary art. The Migrant and Exodus series fall within this social issue that is given in the artistic discourse. I think people attending the exhibition will have the opportunity to approach this phenomenon in a more humane manner because it does not necessarily fit into specific stereotypes.
Migrant© Vanessa Colareta, courtesy Nunc Contemporary
Exodus © Vanessa Colareta, courtesy Nunc Contemporary