PhotoArtMag came across mysteriously dark and distinguished photography of David Molina Gadea (b.1991) and got curious about his vision and style. Born in Tarragona in Spain, David studied arts in Massana School from 2009 to 2012 and decided to make photography his foremost medium of expression. As a photographer, David likes to tell stories of social and personal tragedies that are bleak yet visually stunning with strong imagery. Creative use of flash adds a dramatic contrast to his work.
In his seemingly formative years, David’s personal style can be questioned to some extent keeping in view a lot of similar works pouring in nowadays, but, it is his intention of creating an original narrative that is authentic and convincing. We got to David with our set of simple questions and answers thereof are suitably amended below to avoid the language barrier:
I’m always searching for myself and trying to understand the world around me, maybe that’s why I started to travel a lot lately in order to meet many different people and see places. But I’m also very interested in traditional culture of the territories where I go. I think that the territory itself and its history affect our relationships in and within societies in a broad way.
I used to practice several traditional cultural expressions for many years in my country Catalunya in Spain where we have a great history and many varieties of old culture. So I think that you can see those influences in my photographs.
My starting on photography came as a process I think… I got in the school of arts “Massana” in Barcelona where I studied drawing and painting along with classical arts and modern expressions. I was not so good with that but I needed to find a way to express myself, and photography came to me naturally. I found that it allowed me to have a process to gain a personal voice, a voice which allows you to talk about some things that you were trying to express well. Photography is a great tool to explore the limits between your reality, the reality itself and what is more than that.
And yes, I still practice some drawing and painting besides music.
Now it’s getting difficult for me to talk about those extremes…When I was forming my profile information on LensCulture for my ‘almost award-wining’ work ‘Heroes’ with the first chapter ‘The Man Who Sold the World’, I was thinking about some extremes of human being. I’m still interested in finding whatever that happens in the realms of the Human psyche and what are its limits. Maybe those extremes are linked to a determined ways to be in society, and that changes within different society.
So, in my body of work I’m trying to walk across this border, Love and War. Maybe I can simplify it like this, human beings manifest two principal extremes, we love and we make war, in many different ways, and I’m interested in knowing how these paradoxical feelings are mixed up and how we live being like this. I believe that during the display of these extremes we can see things in their real self and understand them well.
Tell us about your creative methods or approaches etc. Do you work in a planned or spontaneous manner?
I work on both, planed and spontaneous way. First, I really like to do photography and that means that many times I’m shooting just for fun or sport, like an exercise to see what happens.
But I also do planned projects. What happens during the projects is that on one hand I run a project for month or even years of shooting in a spontaneous way when I work on a theme or a concept and on the other hand I want to explore some ideas and for them I create a project well conceived with exploring and documenting myself. Then I go to photograph in an organized manner specifically knowing what I want to get from my work.
So, sometimes I have first take the photos and later convert them in a project, and other times I first develop an idea and turn it into a meticulously planned.
This style also came to me as a process of getting a personal voice on photography. First you have something to say, after find a way to say it, and then you need to find the best way to do it, because I want to see what I’m searching for. I’m comfortable taking pictures in this style because I’m getting something from my images. I’m firstly photographing for myself, I need to do it, I must do it, and it’s because it brings something essential to my life.
In my style I’m speaking for other people too and bringing them my way to look at the world and if that brings something to you as well… that’s fine! And about how I developed this style, it’s just about using flash, contrast, some post-processing, just as it’s in analog but I do it in digital, nothing strange or extreme.
What type of cameras and lenses do you use in your work and what do you think about image manipulation?
I work in a ‘documentary’ manner and for that I require a small camera with a fixed lens. I have a Fuji X100 with a 35mm lens and flash. And I have a comfortable pair of shoes too. So normally I’m shooting with flash all the times even in the daylight. Sometimes I use flashlight to illuminate the faces or body just a bit more.
In my laptop I use Lightroom and process all the images in the similar fashion. My limits in digital process are the limits established for the standards of photojournalism. I never add or remove any objects into my photos and I don’t use ‘effects’. I do anything within the scope of normal manipulations in documentary photography, but when you create this kind of super-contrasted black and white pictures people think that you manipulated them like a crazy…
You’ve been shooting for more than 5 years or so. How do you view your evolution as a photographer and how have things changed after gaining some recognition?
I can notice some evolution so that’s already nice! I think that for all these years it was about learning how to use the camera to explain a story, to get a personal voice on that process and to make a good storytelling. And I’m continuing with this learning process. You never end to learn and improve yourself, you should have a critical voice and be ready to go ahead.
On recognition, it’s true that I have gained some but for me the important thing is to continue and go further. And nothing has changed specially, maybe my motivation to continue and my self-confidence as a photographer has increased, there are some publications and interviews, an agency representing my work, but anyway it’s difficult working regularly and publishing new work without financial supports.
What do you think about contemporary photography, current trends, social media, real and online galleries/platforms, etc?
For me it’s not the whole idea of ‘contemporary photography’ but the quality of that photography which is important. I’m just trying to know if I’m doing well myself or I’m doing just bullshit… 😉
The problem we have is that everyone has the opportunity to take great pictures and has something to tell, even if you want to talk about your cat Steven, you can. So what make the difference between the great photographers, the regular ones and the other people in the world? Now the key is maybe the storytelling, or how to put a quality images in a good order to explain something interesting. Maybe the ‘decisive moment’ doesn’t exist anymore.
The trends… I don’t know. I don’t like to take pictures with my phone. I’m not in habit of taking pictures in color. I don’t use social media… But I know that is another way to make photography and to be related with the world now. If you can use these trends well, maybe they are good tools.
And about the galleries and online platforms, I think that online platforms are a really good tool for the photographers who are starting now like me, but at the same time they are focusing on some genres of today’s photography, and it can be frustrating if you don’t take “colorful and brilliant pictures of sad people”, but I say that mostly for the contests, I don’t believe in contests, but I participate in them believing that they are a good way to get recognition, and it’s true, but finally you want to continue working and for that you need resources, money, plane tickets, press cards, etc. It’s sad to see that to be able to work more, you need to be known in this world.
I don’t know a lot about galleries, but they sell a lot of “commercial artistic photography” and there are a lot of them. They follow some lines which depend on the people who buy their “art”, so it’s difficult to get in the good galleries who sell high quality photography and documentary photography… Galleries = art speculation, but there are some good stuff too.
Tell us about your achievements, awards, clients, publications etc:
I haven’t really achieved a lot of awards and clients. I was just a finalist in some contests like Burn Magazine and LensCulture… not a winner, but it’s true that after these achievements some people started taking interest in my work. I got some publications in magazines and interviews and I got into an agency in UK after my work “The Human Apart” on the border of Hungary and Serbia about the present refugee crisis. Now the people of my village have started to respect my work much more and stopped thinking that I’m a crazy guy who takes photos of everything on his way!
What are your future plans and ambitions?
I have a lot of plans, projects, ideas and ambitions too high. I’m waiting for the result of FotoPres 2016 of la Caixa Bank which is one of the bigger prizes in Europe for contemporary documentary photography. I applied with my project ‘The Long Way Home’. It’s about the refugee crisis in the heart of Europe when they arrived on their destinies and they get into process of seeking asylum, which is long and hard and they live in refugee centers like in a big waiting rooms. After that I’ll try also to go to Lebanon where the 20% of the population is that of Syrian refugees. I have many other bodies of work in process now. I’m always working on something and having new ideas for future works.
And about my ambitions, I would like just to continue working and go further, so I think it will be nice to win this FotoPres (I hope so) and I’m preparing also some work for the next edition of the WorldPress Photo (big words here) and I would like to draw attention of a good agency to represents me and give me more recognition and opportunities to work. I’m focused on VU agency of Paris, so if any of VU representative is reading this interview, please, don’t hesitate to contact me, I’m ready to join you! 😉
Please share your favorite artists, photographers, books, movies etc:
I have some references on photography and literature who have helped me in understanding things and growing up in some way as a photographer.
For example, I like very much the way Trent Parke mixes something much more personal with documentary photography in a same body of work and makes it really deep where you can identify many feelings and an emotional way to look at the current world. If you are capable of talking about a concrete situation in an emotional way, you will make that more sensible and in some ways comprehensible.
I am also amazed about the capacity of Alex Webb to create complicated compositions, full of elements in every layer of the frame and explaining many stories in just one picture. And I love the ‘simple’ and emotional photography of José Manuel Navia. His way to approach photography with literature, his humility… He is a great photographer and a great person I think.
I would like to share also names of some artists who are important for me to understand better what I’m doing: composition, be aware of the space, forms, geometry, emotions… For me Alberto Giacometti and Amadeo Modigliani were two of the great influences on me because I’m really interested in faces. Goya was the master of the monster! He painted the biggest nightmares and witches and the dark Spanish culture side (myths and legends) as well as he painted for the royalty and made his greats compositions, and for the poor people and about poverty, and madness too. Francis Bacon, Caravaggio, and my teacher Isidre Manils are truly great names!
The last book I read was “Justine” of Lawrence Durrel and now I’m starting with “The Heart of the Antarctic” by Ernest Shackleton.
Other great inspiration for me are my friends and my family.
I would like to say for the people who are starting on creative expressions – just work, work and explore, and open the window and look what’s happening around you… then close the window and look what’s happening inside you… and find a personal voice! And don’t worry about the new trends or contests or what people think or say about you. Look what people do and learn from them!
All photos © David Molina Gadea : Website