Interview by: James Wrigley
Paula Prats is a Spanish photographer with a Fine Arts background. Her interest in traveling and photography led her to expand her studies in the universities of Emily Carr Art + Design in Vancouver, and Middlesex University of London. She's had work exhibited individually and collectively in shows in Spain, Canada, Mexico and Iceland.
To start, what first inspired you to be a photographer?
I think it was traveling, the first period I spent abroad while studying Fine Arts was the turning point. I felt photography was a way to relate to a new place and my experience of it and to include it in a more direct way to my work. Also discovering photographers or books that had an impact on me was very inspiring to start taking pictures.
What were the books that inspired you the most and why?
At the very beginning I liked Robert Frank, so "the Americans" was a great book to look at. He broke rules and redefined the photographic book in a more personal and poetic way. I was also fascinated by the LA 60’s-70’s American colour photography. Stephen Shore’s Uncommon places or William Eggleston’s Los Alamos was key. Meyerowitz interested me too, I love his street photography but I found his Cape light very special, a meditative book. Then Wolfgang Tillmans, Aufsicht / View from above, If one thing matters everything matters, Freischwimmer... And to add just one more artist, Rinko Kawauchi’s Illuminance really caught my eye, also Hanabi.
Your work has been described as combining a documentary style with an abstract one.Would you agree and how would you describe your practice?
Well, far from documentary photography in a traditional sense, it is true that part of my work has a more straightforward and descriptive style while other parts are more abstract and ambiguous. I like to bring together different processes and ways of image making in my practice. For example, ÍS series was a diary and a personal portrait of a place whereas Still Light has a more symbolic and encrypted nature.
In an interview with BODE magazine you have said that you find everything you do to be personal work. I found this to be an interesting statement, I personally took from it that you create for yourself and that your work is, in some ways, an exploration of the self. Could you tell me a bit more about this?
Yes I feel everything I do, if not commissioned, is personal work no matter if it's a project or a random single picture; it all connects to my inner curiosity and interests. The way I experience the world and what happens in my life always translates into my images one way or another.
Traveling is something that seems to be a big part of your life. Where did the urge to travel first develop? And what have been some of your favorite/most memorable experiences?
I’m not sure when it first developed but I spent some time abroad as a teenager and I remember it was a very strong experience in a positive way and I just felt there was so much to do and discover. If I have to think about my most memorable experiences, everything that comes to my mind is in the nature. When I first stepped into a Canadian rainforest, driving in the dessert in Death Valley, seeing a geyser exploding or swimming in a warm lagoon under a snowstorm in Iceland.
You have yourself created publications, as you mentioned about your ÍS project was a diary. I take it this was your influence for the publications design? Could you tell me a little about your publications and the process behind them, and do you think it is an importantend goal to have a publication?
The latest publications I made came up accompanying a curated show. With ÍS I got a format given and I created the edition and display of images. The size and cover resembled a journal so it was perfect to use it for this project. With Still Light, it was part of a broader exhibition program where a graphic design studio is in charge of the design of the catalogues. We had a dialogue about the concept and edition of the piece. I don’t necessarily see having a publication as an end goal but I’d love to create an independent photo book in the future. The book format is a great way to show your work, however it always depends on the project. Some are better conceived as an installation in the wall while others as asequence through pages. It would be interesting to create a project formulated primarily as a photo book.
You mentioned earlier how you used photography to relate to a new place and through your own personal interests and curiosities, what is it you look for when photographing?
What I look for varies as my interests and experiences change but I’m often interested in creating a personal connection to a place through photography, making an interpretation of it. Looking for small details that surprise me or capture my attention for some reason, observing what goes unnoticed, something banal that can turn otherworldly, mysterious...
How important do you think location is for being creative?
I’m not sure how much it can affect on creativity but it’s true that some locations can be very inspiring and stimulating for me, especially when they’re unknown.