Feature Photographer Interview: José Garrido

José Garrido

José Garrido

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!  It’s been nearly four months since the last Feature Photographer interview.  During this time, conflicting schedules, vacations, and pure modesty have often been the reasons TIA International Photography has encountered challenges behind recruiting new photographers for the feature interviews.  Many photographers who have shied away from the interview will be approached again because TIA truly believes their work is magnificent and should be shared and showcased.  There is so much unrecognized talent in photography that TIA wishes it could cover all of it on a weekly basis.  However, this would be too grand an undertaking to accomplish alone, which is why these Feature Photographer interviews are so important for TIA to share with you.

That brings us to today!  Earlier this year, the photography of one particular individual caught my attention, and has managed to maintain my attention for several months.  Many of us frequently opine that we can often tell a lot about a photographer just by the pictures he or she shares with others.  I also believe this is true.  Over time, I came to identify the fascinating styles that this photographer applies to his images, whether they were sweeping, gorgeous landscapes of southern Spain, or the enigmatic intrigue of post-modern skyscrapers and structures.  From many of his images, I began to suspect that this photographer was, in fact, an architect.  I had no other basis for this other than the wonderful photographs I had seen posted on Flickr.  When I finally asked, he confirmed my suspicion to be true!

There are some photographers who adopt such unique styles that it inevitably becomes easy to identify his or her work in a gallery of photography authored by different photographers.  There are traits, tactics, details, qualities, and clues when, combined altogether, inform the viewer immediately that only one photographer could have been capable of achieving such a captivating shot.  I refer to these as “signature traits” or “trademark traits”.

One such photographer that falls under this category is José Garrido!  I approached José for this interview a few weeks ago, and was delighted that he agreed in spite of his busy schedule which involved making a presentation at an architecture conference in Dublin earlier this month!

As soon as José returned from Ireland, we completed the interview.  Although we have not officially met, it is very obvious that, aside from being a talented photographer, José is cordial, diplomatic, and very personable.  TIA hopes to meet José in the future and learn from his photographic techniques, particularly his long exposures of urban landscapes and architecture taken during the day with neutral density filters.  Until that opportunity presents itself, TIA wishes José the very best with his endeavors in both architecture and photography!

Let’s get to the interview!

NAME:  José Garrido

CITY & COUNTRY OF RESIDENCE:   Granada, Spain

FLICKR WEBSITE:   http://www.flickr.com/photos/joseag/

TIA:  ¡Hola José!  Many thanks for agreeing to be a Feature Photographer for my official blog.  I am very excited because this will be an interview that will appeal to photographers, architects, and urban planners alike.  Let’s please start with the subjects you most like to photograph.  What captures your attention when you’re carrying your camera?

José:  I find myself gravitating toward long-exposure photography of architecture and cityscapes at the moment, but who knows what the future holds for me?

TIA: What have been some of your favorite locations that you have photographed previously?  Any particular cities?

José:  Among many others, I would say Potsdamer Platz in Berlin; the newly developed Zuidas District in Amsterdam and, more recently, the Grand Canal Dock in Dublin.

TIA:  I have also learned, since we crossed paths via Flickr, that you love to travel and explore different places.  Are there some cities you would like to photograph in the future?  Which ones?

José:  As an avid traveler, it is difficult for me to narrow my extensive bucket list down to just a few cities.  However, within Europe, I would like to photograph London and Berlin once more, and overseas, I would like to photograph Chicago and Boston.

TIA:  Since I hypothesized about you being an architect from the photos you have shared in the past, I am curious to know more about your passion for architecture.  When did you discover your affinity for architecture? How did it first come about? 

José:  I reckon I could not pinpoint a single life-changing event that pushed me into architecture. Nonetheless, I do remember delving into the work of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí when I was in high school. I think that, beyond the external appearance of his buildings, there is something fascinating about the way he crafted every one of his projects. At the early stages of the design process for some of his most iconic buildings, he would assemble upside-down models of his designs by using small sandbags hanging from a complex net of interconnected strings and chains that would thus shape in the form of natural-looking catenary curves. He would later mirror the resulting model to obtain the structural core that would support his building. Seeing images of those models and understanding how they worked was probably the most inspiring architectural design lecture of my life.

TIA:  I think that’s pretty amazing and enlightening!  Let’s delve deeper into architecture for a while.  Who would you say are your favorite architects, and what, in particular, do your admire about them and their work?  

José:  Deconstructivism in postmodern architecture is a movement that first caught my attention many years ago. Aside from the theory behind this architectural style, I am very attracted to the seemingly chaotic visual appearance of many deconstructivist buildings.

TIA:  Cool!

José:  Among the handful of well-known deconstructivist architects that I truly admire, I will point out a couple of names.  Zaha Hadid was born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1950, and in 2004 became the first female to be awarded the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. She designs buildings characterized by elongated, curved shapes, fragmented geometries, and a multiplicity of extremely compelling perspective points. Unfortunately, I have not yet had the opportunity to see first-hand any of her many award-winning buildings.

Featuring a slightly different style, Daniel Libeskind  is a Polish architect born in 1946 whose designs show impossible angles, complex lines, and a remarkable sensibility in the use of light to convey emotions to the visitor of the space. His design for the Jewish Museum in Berlin is one of a kind. The sentiments that arose in me upon visiting this building cannot be expressed with words. In a recent trip to Dublin, I had a chance to photograph the Grand Canal Theatre, one of his latest completed projects. It is a magnificent piece of contemporary architecture and, in my opinion, a textbook example of how a building can have such a wide scope even at the urban planning level.

TIA:  Thanks, José!  Given the information you’ve just shared, I have a different question that comes to mind.  If you were to design your own skyscraper, in which city would you like it be and why?   

José:  Because of my emotional attachment to my hometown and its impressive cultural legacy, I would like it to be located in Granada. However, I believe that building a skyscraper in any historical city within the Mediterranean countries would raise similar concerns among their populations. I am convinced that the way those cities look now is only the result of the audacious and fearless work of some architects in the past who had to face unfounded criticism from the most conservationist layers of the society who were, and still are, always reluctant to change. I think the real challenge is to come up with a design that, after the initial wave of criticism, withstands the passage of time. To give you some iconic examples, I am thinking of the Institute du Monde Arabe by Jean Nouvel in Paris, the Dancing House by Frank Gehry in Prague, or the aforementioned Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin.

TIA:  Which came first?  Your love for architecture or your love for photography?  

José:  It was architecture that came first, and my love for drawing with it.

TIA:  I see, but photography eventually came into the picture (no pun intended)! When and how did photography and architecture finally come together for your images?

José:  To make a long story short, I would say I was in the second year of my degree when I put my hands on a photo camera for the first time. It was a very basic digital point-and-shoot that I got for Christmas. Even though it did not come with the bells and whistles of the newest DSLRs, I very much enjoyed carrying that little, bulky, two-megapixel camera with me everywhere.

José’s first camera!

José’s first camera!

I think it was the beginning of 2009 when my parents bought me my first DSLR with a couple of kit lenses, which I had been craving for years. We were all going to spend some days together touring the Peloponnese in Greece, and they wanted to have some photos from the trip. I believe that it was at some point on that trip that I fell in love with photography. Needless to say, architecture quickly became my favorite subject to photograph.

It was not until recently that I started to experiment with long-exposure photography for architectural and urban scenes. I must admit that I am enjoying this journey quite a bit so far.

Below is one of José’s personal, all-time favorite photographs:

Involution

Involution

“Involution” / Metropol Parasol (2005-2011). Architect: Jürgen Mayer-Hermann. Plaza de la Encarnación. Seville, Andalusia, Spain.

Taken on May 20, 2013.

Technical data: Nikon D800 | Nikkor AF-S 14-24 mm f/2.8G ED at 16mm | Hitech Pro Stop 10 IR ND filter | Tripod.

422s (7min 02s) | f/11 | ISO 100.

Processing: Lightroom 5 | Photoshop CS6 | Silver Efex Pro 2

TIA:  Stunning image, my friend.  Enthralling, even.  What is the story behind “Involution”?  

José:  In my long-exposure architectural work, I am usually trying to capture an image that is as neutral as possible. What I want to achieve with this kind of photography is to be able to model light in the scene in the same way that I used to in my architectural drawings. I think that processing this particular image was the first time in my short photographic career that I felt like I had a level of control over light similar to when using a pencil or pen and ink on paper.

Capturing this image presented the challenge of getting the exposure right under the quickly changing light conditions at sunset. In addition to this, the slow motion of the clouds was fairly erratic that evening, so it took me a while to figure out what direction they were traveling. When I finally did, I recomposed the shot to complement the organic shapes of the wooden structure with the swirling flow of the clouds in the sky.

Processing-wise, I aimed to emphasize the motion in both elements by modeling with light as if I were sitting at the drafting table. I deliberately played with the contrast between light and darkness in opposite ways for these differentiated parts of the image. By interchanging their respective roles in the two main elements of the photograph—light depicts the curved shapes of the architectural object, whereas dark tones accentuate the trajectory of the clouds—light and darkness are used to create a dreamlike atmosphere that appeals to my taste. Even though there are some aspects of this photograph that I would most likely approach in a different way if I were to do it now, I am satisfied with the result.

TIA:   I am impressed by how methodical your approach is.  So many elements went into how you executed and processed this image.  What you have described underscores exactly why people need to be aware that photography is NEVER about simply placing a camera in front of one’s eye and pressing a button.  Thank you!  This actually provides a fantastic segue to the next question that I ask each photographer:  What aspects of photography to do you routinely find challenging or frustrating? 

José:  In my opinion, photography is a continuous learning experience. From the moment you decide upon a specific location and start to set up your tripod, to reaching a final image that pleases your eye, there is always something new that poses a roadblock on your way toward the “perfect” photograph.  When it comes to long-exposure photography during the daytime, most of the automatisms built in your camera do not work properly as soon as you place the grey filter in front of the lens, requiring an additional planning effort on your part. You will probably have to wait for quite a long time until all the elements that you want to have in the frame come together. Of course, that might not even happen until you finally desist and start dismounting your setup. But that’s also the stimulating part of it, isn’t it?

“NO TRIPODS ALLOWED"

“NO TRIPODS ALLOWED”

What frustrates me the most in photography are the anti-tripod policies based on alleged security concerns and corporate image rights that are proliferating in some areas of large cities worldwide. I do not understand how setting your camera on a tripod as opposed to holding it in your hand becomes a more serious security threat for the building and its occupants. Other than that, bad weather can also be very infuriating, especially when you only have a limited number of days to photograph at a certain location.

TIA:   I couldn’t agree more about the prohibition of tripods policy.  As for bad weather, that means when you return to London, you may want to take two weeks or so in order to get the ideal photos you want!  Alright, let’s change gears again.  What do you believe are the ideal ingredients for a fantastic photograph? 

José:  That is a good question that would ask for a long answer, which will most likely remain incomplete. For the time being, I am inclined to think that there is one ingredient that is essential to any good photograph: light, or alternatively the lack thereof. In my honest opinion, it is light that is mainly responsible for conveying emotions to the viewer. Sure, other aspects such as composition, color, and the ability to tell a story, along with an endless list of technical elements like sharpness or depth of field are also important, but I believe that they play a secondary role.

TIA:  José, what or who motivates your style of photography? 

José: The first and most important thing that moves me to take pictures is my love of traveling. I like visiting new places with a clean and somehow naïve mindset, so that I tend not to spend much time researching what it is that I should photograph at the particular destination I am headed to. In contrast, I usually move by ear on my first days in a new city, scouting locations that I might want to go back to with my camera gear during the following days in town. If there is a building, an intersection, or a specific point of view that catches my eye, I will do whatever I possibly can to come back from my trip with my best version of it.

I also fancy dedicating some time on a regular basis to looking for inspiration in others’ imagery. Specifically with regards to long-exposure photography, I find the extremely elegant work by black and white fine art photographers Joel Tjintjelaar and Julia Anna Gospodarou to be truly inspiring. If you have not yet done so, I would recommend that you check out Joel’s latest series of cityscapes from La Défense District in Paris. Highly advisable as well is Julia’s Ode to Black series: an exploration on the limits of darkness in photography, featuring iconic examples of contemporary architecture from all over the world.

TIA:  Fantastic!  To date, no one ever believes my favorite part of Paris is La Défense!  Parisians and many of my friends may not care for it, but I think it’s an extraordinarily beautiful and modern part of the city.  OK, I think that’s about it, José.  Is there anything else you would like to mention that hasn’t been covered?  

José:  First of all, I would like to thank you for thinking of me to be interviewed for your blog.  Since I first came across your work on Flickr, I have been amazed by the endless palette of light and colors that can be found in your fabulous collection of cityscapes. I hope both your international and domestic travels in the future give you the opportunity to keep on showing us the world’s greatest metropolises in such a unique way.

TIA:  Thank you for the kind compliment.  I appreciate it.  As long as the world still spins, my camera and tripod still work, and I have money in my pocket, I will continue to practice and experiment with my photography for as long as I can.  Hopefully, somewhere along the way, we’ll do a joint photo shoot in one or more of our planet’s many great cities.

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