Riccardo Arriola is a photographer and cinema student specializing in Cinematography at the Centro de Capacitación Cinematográfica in México City. He was born on a rainy day 24 years ago and these photographs are ‘a result of four months of continuous work trying to discover and understand the female body and the functioning, incidence and other factors of the light. With certain knowledge in hand or savoir faire, and I believe with a bit of luck, I have obtained these photographs.’
How did the idea for the series come about?
The idea of photographing Teresa begins from the fact that it seems to me that her beauty is very typical of Edgar Degas and his impressionism party. A couple of years ago I was in the Musée d’Orsay contemplating impressionist paintings and I was subconsciously creating a very strong concept for photographing women with this type of figure and aesthetics. Subsequently I dedicated approximately 2 years of study of paintings and photographic exercises with various models, human figures and still life. Little by little my work has been getting closer to the artistic nude of the last century. With Teresa, a little by little we have been finding a very fruitful artistic collaboration, she is a literature student and from novels that she has read we create photographic sets for the shoots. The last proposition I made to her was of Juan Rulfo and his masterpiece Pedro Páramo, this year is the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great Mexican writer. Lastly I will cite Juan José Arreola; “There are so many things to talk about, but within your life-time you’ll reach to only a few. Let’s choose the most beautiful ones.”
Can we photograph the female body differently in a more powerful way?
Naturally you can photograph, or represent, the human body in an even stronger way. The question will always be the final end and the means of expression. It should be defined whether it is photography as a way of expression, as art, or as a historical record of what happens in human history. Once defined the above one will be able to devise a vanguard with respect to what was previously working in order to create something new. The only thing I could say about this question is that, in my not-so-humble opinion, that would complement the world of the arts is the emergent feminine vision. All humanity has always been seen through male eyes, a new look will fit the planet and many aesthetic canons will be invented. Perhaps that is the only way – the strongest expression of the human body could be seen through female eyes.
What inspires you?
Very difficult to answer. To begin with I would say that part of my photographic work is influenced by the Studium and Punctum. Concepts that Roland Barthes defines in his book Lucid Camera, the first as, universal meaning of photography, closely linked to the cultural and social aspect of the person who perceives it, is rational and ducted to known to all values, “meanings that are nameable, cultural meanings given that we understand at once”. And Punctum; it is personal, plays more on the unconscious ground, it is not intentional and depends on the viewer, a detail that attracts me, his mere presence changes my reading, looking at a photograph from my eyes with a higher value, which pricked me, a personally memory based not on the public file but a private repertoire. I consider myself a very creative person and since I can remember I’ve spent countless of hours creating stories in my head, dreaming and being happier in my dreams and unrealities that in my reality. My work owes a lot to a lot of people engaged in the arts and not just photographers, but painters, sculptors, writers, poets, and varieties. I say this because thanks to my imagination I create things inside my head and later I can create something, based on anything; a song, a phrase, a word, an adjective, an instant, a letter. Photographs, smiles and laughs owe much to painters like; Degas, Pissarro, Monet, Manet, Picasso, Lautrec, Renoir, Cézanne, Schiele. Photographers like; Helmut Newton, Sam Haskins, David Hamilton, Man Ray, Jeanloup Sieff, Ellen Von Unwerth, Robert Mapplethorpe, Herb Ritts, Edward Weston, Andre Kertesz. Sculptors; Canova and Maillol. Men of letters like; George Bataille, Marquis of Sade, Joseph Kessel, Pablo Neruda, the Surrealist Manifesto. A musicians; Miles Davis, Joaquin Sabina, The Doors. My work owes a special mention to Alberto Vargas because of his Pin-Up. As my education is of a cinematographer, I owe a lot to film people; Godard, Marker, Truffaut, Huston, Polanski, Almendros, Coutard.
How would you define beauty?
The beauty is studied from the states of mind and the emotional. An analysis is being realized of what is “beautiful/beauty” from those variables. From this point of view we will distinguish between what is “beautiful” and what is “sublime”, the latter being the highest expression that beauty can achieve. The beauty is very ambiguous and subjective. Surely my way of seeing life may not be beautiful for other people, a matter of opinions.
Film or digital?
Definitely and without a doubt; film. I do not believe in the vast majority of postmodern photographers. If you don’t believe me, take any book by Ansel Adams, open it on the page that suits you and question the first “millennial photographer” with a Full Frame Canon / Nikon DSLR that appears and you will see their lack of knowledge as well as visual culture. People confuse quantity with the quality in the digital way. The digital sensor came to increase the snobbery in the photographic medium and only creates people who believe that they know something they do not. The worst comes when these types of people pass by presuming “achievements” of likes on Instagram and do not even know how the light is measured. The film forces you to understand the light in a very particular way and most of all you learn to save shots. A Kodak or Ilford roll gives you 36 exposures of which you know how many of them will be masterpieces and how many will be wasted photos. With the digital sensor, you have 300 photographs instead which are most likely repeated and without any speech. At the end of the day with a good exposure meter you get well-achieved images technically and they will live approximately 100 years if they are developed correctly. Instead if you have a hard drive, how long does it live? To finish, using film has given me so many achievements and satisfactions. My photographs are very well received always and some people call me weird because I use film, but hey … If the people of Vogue Italy, and printed magazines around Europe publish my photos on their websites I’m happy.
What makes you happy and what’s next for you?
My work is twofold; cinematography and still photography. In the first I want to learn as much as possible from the ASC cinematographers, to know well how to illuminate a set like in Hollywood. I also want to do various tests with Kodak color emulsion to nourish my conception of color. I will be digitally educated in a fairly good way, the Film Training Center is among the top 10 film schools in the world. From there on, I’d like to make a photo novel like La Jetée by Chris Marker in which I can talk of all my deepest concerns, time and memory. On the side of a documentarian, I want to fulfill my dream of working for National Geographic. I consider asking them for my first job when I graduate from the film school. On the side of still photography I want to learn ancient alternative processes; cyanotype and daguerreotype. If some other process is going through there I do not have the slightest problem with learning it and putting into practice. I have a dream to show all my work at an exhibition gallery or museum some day, so I am working hard for my work to have that quality. I am a firm believer of the old school and I believe in events in major museums when your photographs are in large formats and when you give speeches. But the informal response that I would tell any friend of mine in a bar would be … what really makes me happy is reading, drinking wine, smoking and doing nothing.