In Conversation with Hugo Alcol

What mental state of mind were you in when you were taking the photographs in Archipiélago? Do you think it contributed to how the photos have turned out?
HA: The time elapsed in the making of Archipiélago has been very extensive; the images were taken from 2007 to 2015. There are two circumstances that could define a generic mental state for the development of work: on the one hand, the absence of specific purpose at the time of taking the images, given that at those times, I had no preconceived idea about the result I wanted to achieve. It was in 2013 when reviewing my archive I discovered that there was a certain connection between some of the images I had taken during that period. The other circumstance was that during those years, due to a neurological illness that I suffered from, my physical condition was not the most adequate to develop this work. I was in a situation where I was aware that my mental state was very conditioned by my physical state. There was a kind of struggle to keep myself standing, and that was achieved by entering a certain state of abstraction, almost trance, while working. The taking of these images was a kind of Valium.

The lighting of the images play a huge role to the added mystery and theatricality; do you normally carry around additional lights?
HA: Yes, many of the images in the book are illuminated with speedlights. The light seems to me a key in order to developing my work. But, taking into account the different situations that arise—they are real shots—the analysis of light is a factor that I am interested in controlling as much as I can in order to obtain what I have in my head in those moments. Due to the rapidity of these situations, many times there is no time to prepare anything, not even time to think, and it becomes a very visceral process also with light.

Archipiélago, 2007 © Hugo Alcol

Could you elaborate on the process on deciding which images to put in and how you sequence them?
HA: This edition of the book has taken me almost 2 years. Due to the huge number of images that I have to go through, the process has been long—a kind of distillation. When I reached an approximate number of 60 images, out of a total of more than 2000 photographs, I created the structure of the book, as if it were a movie, following the pattern that I mentioned earlier creating a story with a subtle thread that exposes an open and complex narrative.

You’ve said that you don’t intend to present a particular narrative thread in your images. What draws you to this form of storytelling?
HA: I’m interested in ambiguity. I am attracted to the idea of creating a photographic series with a narrative structure apparently closed yet compliant; that which is not evident in its development and even less so when it comes to pretending to have a closed discourse. All the images were taken in real situations and absolutely none were staged. I am interested in offering a different perspective when it comes to representing reality. I intend that the viewer asks, among many other questions, if what he sees is real or has been forced.

Archipiélago, 2013 © Hugo Alcol

Your photos show a sense of abstraction to them. What do you think you can achieve with this abstraction?
HA: I think that feeling of abstraction that you noticed has to do in the first place with the physical and mental state that I had at the moment of the taking. I was deeply absorbed in those moments, so the result was that.

On the other hand, in the edition I wanted to enhance that state even more if possible. I’m not particularly interested in reality. It is too real.

Where is your intervention when it comes to the audiences interpreting these images?
HA: No intervention at all.

Your images remove the façade of wealth and aristocracy presenting the people you have captured in your photography, bare. What is your impression of these social gatherings that you have attended?
HA: It’s funny. I do not understand very well why, on several occasions people have told me the same thing. These images were not taken in any aristocratic environment, or high economic level. Rather, it speaks of environments with a certain air of decadence, environments of magnified realities, with a pretension of high status, but without reaching it.

You’ve stated that before venturing into photography music was a big part of your life. Do you think the music that you played influenced how you create photographs?
HA: Music is always a great influence in everything that I do. For me, music is the most sublime expression of the human being. I would like it if photography could transmit to me the same way music does, but it doesn’t reach that level. But music does take me to a state that praises the creation and perception of photography.

Your images look like it can be a shot out of a film. Would you feel that movies are also an influential medium?
HA: It seems that this has been the case. But not in a conscious way. The cinema has been part of my life, as well as music, literature and art in general. All this appears whenever I do something, one way or another, more obviously or less, but it is always there. It is part of me.

Archipiélago, 2008 © Hugo Alcol

About In Conversation : SIPF Open Call Artists
The 6th Portfolio Open Call instalment of SIPF has brought in a wide range of artists
whose themes range from human impact on our ever changing environment to tales of loss and longing. The photographers chosen for these conversations have displayed an ability to convey profound and complex emotions through their series of images, bringing us into an immersive experience that is unique to each artist. In this series of interviews, we delve deeper into why these photographers do what they do, taking a look at the intimate and personal stories behind each of their projects.

This series of interviews can be found in DECK Journal of Photography #01.