Ricardo Dominguez Alcaraz is a landscape photographer from Valencia, Spain. He received a degree in History of Art from the Universitat de València and an advanced degree in Artistic Photography from EASD, Valencia. His photography is the study of topographical elements and architectural spaces that surround us and he has a distinctively documentation approach to identify, observe, and explore our environment with his equipment.
Images featured here belong to Ricardo’s three projects viz. ‘No One’s Land’, ‘Goodnight, Moon’, and ‘Icon’. ‘No One’s Land’ is about spaces and territories in a semi-urban or rural setting; ‘Goodnight, Moon’ is about the night, our fears and our need of light to be safe; and ‘Icon’ is an urban landscape work about an architectural icon of Valencia. Here’s a short discussion with Ricardo about his photography:
Please tell me about yourself and your relationship with Photography. How much does having an education in art and Photography help you in your work?
I was born in 1984 in Valencia, Spain, where I live today. I have got a Bachelor degree in History of Art and I studied Photography at the Art and Design School (EASD) here in Valencia.
My relationship with the Photography began when I was a little boy. My parents had a Yashica Rangefinder camera which I used when they let me. They and my maternal grandparents always were encouraging me to take pictures, so they brought me cameras (I remember a Polaroid and my first film DSLR camera) and films when they could. I value very much their effort and faith in me on this despite all the difficulties. I always will be thankful for that.
About the education in art, I think it helps, because with it you have a huge cultural and visual base in which you can have some support. History of Art is an academic degree where, beyond of see a lot of paintings or sculptures, it opens your mind. It pushes you to question your environment, what you see and hear. It gives you a critical perspective and let you question “why” things happen and to find an answer. This kind of questions today, in our society, have an incalculable value. It has a big meaning also in my works, because the “why” and “how” questions are essential in them.
Certainly, I don’t know if this necessity of questioning our environment is given through an art studies. I only can talk through my own view, but I think that they always can help you. In the same way with a photographic studies. You can be a self-taught photographer, and that’s nice, but a school helps you to work aspects that you doesn’t think you need to work.
This kind of experiences makes you more complete in all the ways. But if you don’t work outside the school, if you don’t effort or experiment, it makes no difference if you go to a photographic school or not.
You state in your ‘about’ page specifically about being a landscape photographer. How did this interest in landscape grow and what features or characteristics do you look for in a place or environment?
I’ve always been interested in the landscape. I loved to observe where I was and how it made me feel. So when I got the chance of take a picture, I did.
I’m an introvert person and I think this had an influence in doing landscape pictures because the interaction with it is highly personal and you don’t depend of anybody when you are shooting it. I feel comfortable. And then I realize that not only that, but through the landscape I can express myself better and talk about what do you want to talk. So, being a natural or urban landscape photographer is a logical decision. And when you feel comfortable, you feel confident and you can express better your thoughts.
The things I look for when I take pictures depends of the work in particular. For example, in “goodnight, moon” I looked for spaces with an interesting and expressive artificial light and that they were a bit isolated inside the darkness of the night. In “no one’s land” I looked for a recognizable spaces if you talk about the peripheries of a city. In “The Great Escape”, the work I’m doing nowadays, the search is focused in seaside and mountain zones where a person can go to think and to calm down.
At the end, you look for places where you feel fine, where you can walk into them and explore in order to know them well and take the best of them. You will photograph your experiences in them at the end.
There’s an emptiness in your images which is self-explanatory but there aren’t any people. They are nowhere in the frame. It is widely expressed that adding a ‘human element’ to an image makes it interesting. What do you think?
Yes, it’s true that I prefer to put no one in the frame. Although all the stuff you can see inside is made by humans, so the human being is implicit in the picture. But this is difficult to see because there is not physically a human being there. Maybe, if you put someone inside, you can reach an empathy with the spectator that can help to understand the picture.
But I think also that a human presence in a landscape picture can distract the spectator. Because, in my experience as Art Historian and photographer, the human beings have an influence itself, has an interest that goes further the image.
And sometimes we judge and love a picture not because its quality, but because who are in, because maybe he or she is attractive to you, maybe creates in you some empathy, … although the picture has the worst quality possible. So, in consequence, the overall quality doesn’t matter. And this is not a good thing in my opinion. I think that the picture itself is more important than who is in it.
Sometimes, it’s true. A human presence can contribute and complete the quality of the picture and, so, make it more interesting. The secret is to know when you should use a human being in the picture and when you shouldn’t. The main target should be express what you want in the best possible way. It’s one of our challenges as photographers.
What are the other things that you like to shoot beside landscape?
I like the architectural pictures. I like to photograph buildings and to see how a single element changes any place, also how the building itself changes with the light and with the use. It is like the landscape pictures, I feel comfortable making pictures of them.
I also like the documentary photography. I like to tell stories. Because of my own character, at the beginning it is a bit difficult for me to get in, but when I start and I begin to feel good and the people I shoot feels good with me too, this kind of works are very nice and thankful. I think that to make it right, you must to be motivated, because they are long time works. It’s an important thing.
I love the Football world, specially the lower divisions, when the people identifies with their team and this team is the proud of the city and many times is seen as an identity characteristic of this city. I hope I could work it properly someday.
What is your method into shooting? How do you plan your projects and how do they progress? There’s not a big body of work on your website. Are you very selective in shooting or display of your work?
My method is slow, I have to recognize it. It’s based in walk and exploration of the places. The main target at first is to know well the places, so I walk with a notebook and I write down landmarks, details, thoughts and feelings about them.
Once I make it, I take the camera, sometimes the tripod too, and I make the pictures. I often focus in the composition, I think it’s the image main structure and there you will support the idea you want to talk about. After that I select the pictures in the best possible way. It’s a slow and laborious method, but I think it’s the best way to make my pictures because I can think over it calmly and, in consequence, I can express better what I want to say.
Some projects rises up spontaneously, in a specific personal moment and without a previous planning. The project plan comes after, when I realize that the pictures could be a good work. Then I start to plan the pictures, the readings, the walks, …
On the other hand, some of the projects rise up after a reflection about any specific issue before I make any picture. Their progress depends of the work itself. There are some that you can finish in a few months, there are a longer ones that you could finish in a few years, because of the concept, because of the time, etc. Maybe that is why there is not a big body of work in my website, because my method is slow, my projects are long and take some time to finish them properly.
I have projects that are unpublished too. Maybe because they are not good enough in order to finish or maybe because are some that are private, maybe because they are not coherent with the rest of the portfolio. It’s important to have consistency in your portfolio and in whatever picture you publish, although be published in Instagram or similar platforms. You will be valued through your worst picture, so I try to be coherent here and show the best level I can reach.
What photography equipment (camera, lenses, software) do you use and how do you prefer to edit your work?
I work with a Canon 5D Mark II with a 24–105mm lens, that I put many times at 35mm. I have also a 50mm lens that I use sometimes depending what I will shoot. I feel more comfortable if I can work with a DSLR camera than ones where you shoot through an LCD screen.
I edit the pictures in an iMac computer with Photoshop and I print the penultimate group of filtrated pictures in order to edit better the final images of the project. I put them on a surface along some days and I move them here and there, I see how they speak with each other, I see the best disposition, etc. I think it is better that way than to make the edition in a screen, because here you can touch them and you can see them nicely.
Do you have a favorite photo or a significant memory related to photography?
I haven’t got a favorite picture, but of course I love some. But I have got a great moment. It was in the first days at the school photography, when we develop for the first time in the lab a picture made in a pinhole camera. I remember the white paper, exposed, and how magically the picture appears where seconds before there was apparently nothing. It was amazing.
What do you think about contemporary photography (current trends, social media, photography as a career choice, etc.)?
For me, the Photography is a way of life, to see the world, to see the people around us, a way to think and act more than a job itself. So, I think it’s wonderful that the people take pictures and want to be a photographer.
I agree with the use of the technology and the social media, they are good for us as photographers. They are powerful tools to show your work worldwide and to connect and know people around the globe. The democratization of the photographic medium (today, who doesn’t take pictures?), pushes us to look for the excellence in all of our works. It’s the photographic quality and the good use of the photographic language what can differentiate us from the rest. And I love it that way.
The bad thing is that everything moves very fast. Now we move through our own stimulus and we don’t stop and think about what we see around us. Because of that, many times the kind of pictures that triumph in the public today is “sensationalist”, with many effects and nothing deep. So they are forgotten quickly. Our society is becoming a superficial society, and the pictures today reflect it very much.
What are your future plans/projects, ambitions, aspirations etc.?
The main challenge is to survive through the Photography. Sounds easy, but it’s hard. It requires much work, much effort and it gives you little money. It is essential in my opinion that your own people and family have trust in you and support you. It’s very important. It gives you confidence in your life as photographer and, so, in your work.
About my projects, my immediate ambition is to publish in a photobook my “The Great Escape” project. It talks about the natural spaces we use when we are overwhelmed and we have the needing of breath and go out of our daily routine.
Many of us use places like beaches or mountains as a way of escape and to calm down and to think about us and our issues. The pictures talk about these places in a personal way, but in connection with who see them, because the need of breath and sleep is a human need, it is common to all of us.
I think that the project is worth it and the photobook format fits perfectly in the concept of the pictures and their stories. Let’s hope I could publish it via an editorial or via crowdfunding. It will be complicated and hard, but I must try. The work is definitely worth it.
Please share your influences and/or favorite stuff: photographers, quotes, films, books, music etc.
There is a quote that talks about that every picture is a picture of your own self when you are making it. I don’t know if that are the exact words, but the meaning is the same: all picture is you, your moment, your way of being, your thoughts, … It’s wonderful. Scary and wonderful.
I get motivated with the music, it’s important. Groups like Arcade Fire, Franz Ferdinand, Arctic Monkeys, Editors, … I like Classical Music too: Bach, Mozart or Vivaldi’s music had a great influence.
I like the photographers of the New Topographics group and their visual “descendants”. Also I like photographers like Gabriele Basilico, Nadav Kander, Alec Soth or the Spaniards Bleda y Rosa.
About movies and books, I like the ones that have got a good script or a good story. The “save the world with explosions” films I don’t like much, except if they are of 007 or about spying.
But I mostly like films and books that make me think about they tell me. The book of Michel Houellebecq “La carte et le territorie” (The map and the territory), is a good example.
Something to say to our readers or aspiring photographers:
Once, a recognized photographer, when he saw my work, said to me to never ever stop making pictures like that, in whatever conditions. To me, that was very important and inspiring. And I think it’s the best advice I could say: make pictures whatever happens. For you, not because of likes or social relevance. Only for yourself.
The main thing here is to live and to enjoy making pictures. And, through it, live your life in the way you want to. It’s that easy.
All photos © Ricardo Dominguez Alcaraz : Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram