JONATHAN CUADROS | BERLIN, GERMANY
Born to immigrants fleeing the socio-political strife of Eighties South America, Colombian-American photographer Jonathan Cuadros spent his early years in California and Florida. He studied Literature and Creative Writing, working as editor for a local visual arts and literary quarterly before being exposed to film photography during a trip to Japan.
By 2015 he had relocated to Berlin in order to focus full-time on photography, where an affinity for poetry would continue to inform his practice. His work has since been featured in print and online, with his first solo exhibition held in 2017 in Berlin-Mitte marking the release of his black-and-white photobook, “Lichtquellen.”
Cuadros’ debut title is published by Pogo Books, the German publisher known for working with once-emerging photographers like Chad Moore, Valerie Phillips, and Miron Zownir before their celebrated and wide-ranging careers blossomed.
What is your work about?
Going through my body of work one day it hit me that photography for me has always been about framing intimacy. That can be between friends, lovers, even complete strangers. As someone with a failing memory, I learned to outsource the work of archiving personal moments to the camera, captured with their psychic associations intact. This epiphany is what led to the first book, where I meditated on my personal experience starting life over in a city (Berlin) I had never been before and where I was completely alone. Being separated by degrees of language and culture as well as it being my first winter made it a dark time in my life, but it allowed me to isolate the feeling of searching for the light in one’s life, which is an essential human experience, I think.
For these reasons as well as my early days with poetry I’ve always been partial to contextualizing my photography as a sort of ongoing visual diary. Something “for the heart, by the heart” that will inevitably be opened by someone else.
How does photographing on film (or using your material photographic process of predilection) inform your artistic practice?
All film aesthetics (e.g., the beautiful grain, colors, it’s sometimes experimental nature) aside, I live by the asceticism it imposes on my practice. I don’t know whether I would have the discipline to not chimp or shoot blindly with burst mode on a digital camera because I’ve never used one besides the iPhone. Digital has it’s advantages, you can even use software to make it look like film. Many of my friends shoot this way and I’ve been envious of the results they can pull off with a little post. Yet film is about working within these constraints: only 36 shots, you’re struggling in the dark, maybe there’s natural or halogen light and you maybe have no idea how these colors will turn out.
Also, going back to the idea of memories in my work, it’s quite common for me to wait months to develop. They teach you in writing school to put your manuscript in a drawer and open it again in a year — same logic applies to photos if you want to edit without your heart chiming in.
To be frank, there’s a certain discipline I can’t imagine operating without. You become sensitive to what moments need to be recorded. At concerts I close my eyes and listen to the music.