Álvaro Calvo’s photography is an inquiry into our being and living in this mysterious world. Looking at his photos make me realize we are tiny and lonely figures stuck in a desolate world; we are bruised and battered; we need be caressed and cared. His images are poignantly delicate and heart-warming at times.
Alvaro (b.1980) studied photography in Huesca, Spain and went on to Madrid for further studies, where he currently lives and works as a freelancer. He works for various companies, institutions and international news agencies. In 2013 and 2015, he was named a finalist in Discoveries PhotoEspaña. His work is included in the book “Contemporaries, Thirty Photographers Today” published by the publishing house La Fábrica in 2015. Last year he won Lensculture’s Emerging Talent Awards.
Please tell me about yourself and your relationship with photography. Do you feel that having an education or degree in photography helps an individual?
For me, photography is a lifestyle; it’s my job and also my passion. It is a long-haul journey and I believe that it is important to have a training either regulated or self-taught, it is important to go to workshops of great photographers, as well as read about photography in order to improve your past and present knowledge of it. I also think that it is important to know other practices such as painting, cinema or even poetry; sometimes inspiration can simply come from a song.
The core idea is to focus on a series of unanswered questions that we ask ourselves at some point in our life, questions that are always from a spiritual and transcendent point of view.
‘Unanswered’ Is a reflection of both the questions as well as my own idea of the world from an existential point of view. I come from a family with strong Catholic convictions; therefore I was educated within this context, throughout the process of becoming an adult many questions regarding these dogmas arose, leading and inspiring me to develop the series.
‘Diario’ consists of images taken in my day to day. These images do not particularly respond to any specific series, they are simply photographs of things that catch my eye. They are people, they are lights, they are landscapes, and they are details.
Tell me about the characteristics or elements of a person, place or thing that you like shooting most?
What draws my attention the most is the idea of capturing mystery, emotions and creating atmospheres.
Above all, I am interested in images that create curiosity, which are not transparent and do not tell the full story, photos which allow our imagination to run wild. I enjoy images that I do not fully understand.
What are your methods or critical approaches of shooting? What are your decisive moments?
The approach I follow is mainly that I allow myself do be driven by intuition and what I feel at the time I am shooting. I try not to think too much, I like to clear my mind and live in the present. I face the world through my lens, searching for and sometimes encountering things both expected and unexpected, Serendipity is the name of these findings, I love this word as well as its significance however my search is mainly defined by my knowledge, the context in which I live, my family, my experiences, ultimately my photos are a reflection of who I am, as Kant says “see things, not as they are but as we are”.
I am a professional photographer therefore I have several cameras and lenses, all of which I use to work, however when I take photos in my free time, I try to take equipment that avoids drawing too much attention. I usually go out with a Canon 6D or with a Canon 1D with a 24-70mm and a 50mm , It’s pretty much all I need.
Do you have a favorite photo or a significant memory related to photography or your travels?
It has come to my mind a photo of Huesca, my hometown, which I took a long time ago. It brings me good memories, I sent it to a newspaper and it was published as cover to illustrate the information about the snow; there was a woman crossing the main street with an umbrella under the snow. I think that this photo began to define my style as photographer.
I think that it is a complex and very competitive world to work in it only in artistic levels. It is necessary to be very constant and also having a huge personal motivation. Today more than ever the photography is present in our lives thanks to the digital era and internet. It is very easy to have access to the work of many emergent or consolidated photographers. This is a wonderful opportunity, although it also causes the creation of global trends. These tendencies determine ourselves to a certain extent, although these sort of works are less interesting to me. Gazes are fundamental to me, beyond the tendencies which determine the form and the subjects, not all photographers are able to create their own gaze.
Currently, I’m still working on my project ‘Unanswered’. Recently, I have been shown in some exhibitions however, the final objective of this project is to get a photobook which I expect to finish soon. This new year, 2016 comes full of opportunities, for instance; thanks to the emerging talent award of Lensculture, I´m going to participate in several international photo festivals such as; Contact in Toronto, Voices of Arles in France, or the international photography festival of Tokyo.
In the long run, my ambitions are to continue learning and growing as photographer. I would like to be able to produce better works, not only in a professional level as well as in a personal level.
I have a lot of favorite photographers but it comes to my mind right now; Elliot Erwitt by his fun look, Philip-Lorca diCorcia by his light use, and Stephen Shore by his capacity to turn into transcendent what it is the apparently trivial. Recently, I read a quotation that made an impact on me, it belongs to a North American physicist called Lee Smolin and it says:
As much as we know, there will always be a question unanswered, and that mystery space will inevitably invite certain mysticism.
It explains perfectly the project that I’m developing. I have added it as a guide quotation.
Any message to the reader, like a tip:
Be yourself and do what’s right.