Photography of Xavier Aragonès from Spain

My name is Xavier Aragonès. I am an amateur photographer born in 1979 in Pineda de Mar, Spain and currently based at Terrassa, Spain. I have a degree in Journalism but haven’t worked in the media for a long time now (and frankly, I don’t look forward to doing it again).

I took up photography in my early twenties as an excuse to get out and explore my immediate surroundings. I went to photography school for two years and learnt all the basics there but I dropped out when I realized that I didn’t want to be there anymore because I was learning a lot more by wandering around, staring at the world and shooting a lot of photographs.

In 2014, though, I took a year-long course on creative documentary photography at El Observatorio photo school in Barcelona, under the guidance of Eugeni Gay and Camilla de Maffei. I can honestly say right now that course was a very important event in my evolution as a photographer and as a creative individual and it certainly made me push forward.

I have published two photobooks - both through publishing house Camera Infinita: “O. O. O.”  (a brief compendium of many urban exploration trips I took between 2008 and 2011) and “Twentysix Abandoned Catalan Gasoline Stations”. My work has also been featured in Underdogs Magazine and Camera Infinita Magazine.

Statement: My work revolves basically around landscape, architecture and documentary photography. I’m particularly attracted to locations (“spaces”) that have been transformed or affected in some way by human intervention (and so they become “places”). I’m more drawn to capturing atmosphere and suggesting possible narratives rather than telling stories in a straight, traditional way.

I love the idea of wandering around, camera in hand, with no specific purpose and believing in the power of intuition and serendipity (much in the way of the Situationists’ “dérive”). For a long time I used to be that type of photographer who shoots a lot of pictures and later turns them into a particular series through editing and sequencing. However, in the last years my work and family obligations have forced me to take a more practical approach: now I think more about the concept and themes behind a project before I start shooting, scout for locations in advance, make a schedule for every photo trip, etc. Yes, the whole process has become more planned and less spontaneous but at the same time much more focused, I guess.

Over the years I have used different kinds of photographic equipment, both analog and digital, but in the end I have found out that what works better for me is sticking to one type of camera, one type of film and no more than a couple of lenses for every single project. For instance, I shot all photographs for “Twentysix Abandoned Catalan Gasoline Stations” with square medium format film cameras (Yashica Mat 124 G, Hasselblad 500 C/M and Mamiya 6), Kodak Portra film and 75 or 80 mm lenses. These limitations not only helped me get a cohesive look for the whole body of work but also forced me to get more involved physically with the subject and more conscious about the act of photographing since I had to manually control focus and exposure, which made the process more enjoyable to me.

Influences : Like everyone else, I’m influenced by everything I see, hear or experience. But if I have to narrow the list down to photography, I’ll say that I especially dig the work of early color art photographers such as Stephen Shore, William Eggleston or Carlos Pérez Siquier and more contemporary names like Jeff Brouws, Todd Hido, Ed Panar and Jason Fulford. I’m also fond of the works of many lesser known photographers that I have discovered online, like JM Ramírez-Suassi, Marc Llach, Isa Gelb, Patrick Joust and Missy Prince, to name just a few.

I get a lot of inspiration from cinema, too. “Stalker” from Andrei Tarkovsky has helped me shape my views on the space/place dichotomy I talked about earlier. I also enjoy the movies of Jim Jarmusch, Federico Fellini, David Lynch, Sergio Leone, Chris Marker and many other filmmmakers.

Twentysix Abandoned Catalan Gasoline Stations : In 2011 I embarked on a series of short road trips to explore and photograph the landscape surrounding national, regional and local roads in my homeland of Catalonia, Spain. Although at first I had not intended to focus in any specific kind of subject, from early on I noticed that I was notably drawn to gas stations, abandoned ones in particular.

By that time I had recently discovered Ed Ruscha’s “Twentysix Gasoline Stations” and I soon began fantasizing with the idea of making my own particular version of that classic photobook. I started to search online for derelict gas stations within the boundaries of Catalonia (for those who don’t know, an area which is slightly bigger than Belgium).

By mid October, 2016 I had found 38 possible locations. I got to visit and shoot 35 of them in a couple of months and in January, 2017 the project was already complete. I showed the whole series to José de Almeida, who had just published my first book “O. O. O.” through his Camera Infinita platform. He liked the idea and immediately came up with a fantastic book design, based on the original Ruscha book but with a twist. The book was released last June and is available for full preview and print-on-demand purchase at Camera Infinita.

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