Spain Week: Anna Cabrera and Angel Albarrán: The Mouth of Krishna
…and He opens his mouth and Yashoda gasps. She sees in Krishna’s mouth the whole complete entire timeless universe. All the stars and planets of space and the distance between them; all the lands and seas of the earth and the life in them; she sees all the days of yesterday and all the days of tomorrow; she sees all ideas and all emotions, all pity and all hope, and the three strands of matter; not a pebble, candle, creature, village or galaxy is missing, including herself and every bit of dirt in its truthful place. ‘My Lord, you can close your mouth,’ she says reverently.
Photography joined the path of Anna Cabrera and Angel Albarrán twenty five years ago. Since then, they have been learning, researching, studying and experimenting together. Their research led them to Japan where they found a different way of interpreting reality beyond the apparent surface of aesthetics.
For them, Photography is to live the moment, to be aware of the moment beyond thinking about the finished photograph. This will come at a later time when they immerse themselves in the darkroom to experiment, as good alchemists as they are. They master many techniques such as Platinum, Palladium, Cyanotype, Silver Gelatin, but above all they have found their own technique that characterizes their work – the incorporation of gold leaf that reminds us of Japanese silk painting.
As Albarrán Cabrera have pointed out, “this wide range of processes and materials serve a single purpose: to give us far more parameters to play with the viewer’s imagination than a mere image.” The texture, colour, finishing, tones – even the border – of a print can provide the viewer with valuable information.”
The physical sense of photography as an object to touch, to feel, to perceive the smalls details and shades of color, paper textures and the way light reflects inside the paper, leads the viewer to perceive the world around us in a certain mood or feeling in which beauty matters.
Their work will be featured in Beyond the Obvious at Ira Stehmann Fine Art in Munich, Germany, March, 2020 – 9 May, 2020 and at Art Paris 2020 at the Esther Woerdehoff Gallery in Paris, France, 28 May, 2020 – 31 May, 2020.
Angel Albarrán (b.1969, Barcelona) and Anna Cabrera (b. 1969, Sevilla) have worked collaboratively as art photographers since 1996. A rich inner philosophy about memory and experience — and an alchemical curiosity for photographic printmaking — guide their aesthetic practice. Influenced by both occidental and oriental thinkers and artists, their photographs question our assumptions of time, place and identity in order to stimulate a new understanding of one’s own experience and perception. For the artists, “being conscious of our surroundings isn’t just an important part of life —our surroundings and how we interpret them is life as we know it.”
Angel Albarrán’s love for photography was inspired by his grandfather. A carpenter by trade, Albarrán’s grandfather created cameras for the photographers in his province before taking up the art himself. Anna Cabrera found her passion at age 16 when her father lent her his Voigtländer camera to take on an academic trip to Paris. Since beginning their collaboration, the artists have attended workshops, learning from such masters as Humberto Rivas and Toni Catany. They have deepened their personal beliefs through the world of literature and science, and through extensive travels in East Asia and Western Europe.
While inspired by literature, painting, film, science and philosophy, Albarrán Cabrera specifically employ the medium of photography to convey their worldview:
“Viewers interpret photographs subjectively by relating them to their culture, experience and memory. As photographers, we can explain complex subject matter without using any linguistic code but by means of images.”
Albarrán Cabrera continuously experiment with a diverse range of printing processes such as platinum, palladium, cyanotype, and gelatin silver print. While often toning their darkroom prints with selenium, sepia, or tea, the artists also invent their own methods to add tonal depth to their artworks. The artists use hand-made gampi paper with either gold leaf or mica for their pigment prints that emit a radiance akin to Japanese silk painting. As Albarrán Cabrera have pointed out “this wide range of processes and materials serve a single purpose: to give us far more parameters to play with the viewer’s imagination than a mere image. The texture, colour, finishing, tones – even the border – of a print can provide the viewer with valuable information.”
Their photographs have been exhibited in galleries and photo fairs in Spain, Japan, Switzerland, USA, Belgium, The Netherlands, France, Germany, Lebanon, and Italy. Private collections and institutions that house their photographs include Hermès, Goetz Collection, Banco de Santander, De Nederlandsche Bank among others. They have also produced photographic prints for institutions such as Fundació La Pedrera, Barcelona; Fundació Toni Catany, Mallorca; Reina Sofía Museum, Madrid; the Photographic Archive, Barcelona.
Some Insights About Our Work
We Work in Open Series
We use photography as a notebook to reflect on our reality, our life. We are highly interested in a set of subjects and we enjoy exploring them, thinking about them carefully. During this ongoing exploration, we simultaneously learn about them (through reading, watching movies, listening to music, travelling, etc.) and we take photos. But when we shoot, we are not thinking about a specific series, we are just trying to translate our thoughts into images. Once the image is processed and it becomes a print, at that very moment, it is when we “feel” that the given print “fit” into a given series.
Time, reality, existence, identity and empathy are very interesting subjects, but the most fascinating thing is the relation between them. These relations are difficult to explain by means of words and that is why we rely on images. We are particularly interested in memories. We want to play with the memories of the viewer to construct a representation inside their minds. Of course, we will never know what the final result will be, because any person has different memories and has grown up in different cultures and environments. Our images will only be the bare bones of this mental construction.
Mainly for two reasons:
The way a photograph is interpreted is subjective and it is related to the culture, experiences and memories of the viewer. This means that as photographers, we can explain very complex subjects or the relations between them without using a specific verbal language that follows a linguistic code made of symbols and meanings. But in turn, we use images and prints. We feel that photography can help the viewers to understand difficult concepts. A set of images make the viewer be in the same wavelength as we are.
The other reason is not a new one. Whenever we think of a photograph we think of a real event, we think we are looking at something that really took place, although we also know the images are constantly manipulated. “If it is in a photograph, it is real”. This fact gives you a lot of power to explain concepts that are difficult to explain using a different language.
There is a gap between reality and what we understand as real. And photography (as Japanese dramatist Chikamatsu once said about art) lies in the frontier between the real and unreal, the true and the false. So, it helps us to “see” what is hidden from us.
Using photography, we might not be able to answer the big questions about time, reality or space, but we are interested in exploring how a photographic image can make people think about their reality. Being aware is not just an important part of life, it is life as we know it. Using photography, we want the viewers to increase empathy and arouse interest towards their reality.
When did you discover the path of being a photography author?
As it is explained in our bio, photography snaked into our lives long time ago and it has been evolving along the years. A friend who started in the gallery business asked us for help and we started to experience the world of photography from the gallerist point of view. This friend encouraged us to show our work to the public.
We realized that with our work we were able to create feelings and trigger thoughts in the viewer as strong and powerful as the ones that the photographic medium generated in us. So, it was during our first exhibitions when we felt we had become “authors” although the path had been created years before.
Do you think about pictures every day?
We think about images, visual representations of concepts every day, but we never think about pictures until the end of the process. We believe that when learning, understanding and experiencing new ideas our brain changes. We think that these changes will make visible what has always been in front of us but we have not been able to see so far. After shooting, when we review all the work it is when we start to think about how to represent the original concept using a picture.
What are your challenges as an artist?
We think that the challenge for any artist (not only us) is to bring a new point of view of reality, tell the truth and present his work as a coherent whole. The artist must always try to stay afloat despite of being navigating in the troubled waters of “culture industry”.
How do you overcome the artistic block?
Until now, we haven’t experienced the artistic block and it can be the result of the way we work. We do not concentrate on specific and closed series, creating one after another. Our series are open and ever-growing mimicking the way we also evolve and change over time. We learn as much as we can about a topic and afterwards we go out shooting. We keep creating images for the same series for a time and suddenly, these images raise our interest in some other topic. Thus, we turn towards this new topic alongside the other one. We could say that out of one series the others appear.
Is there anything that you would like to tell us that nobody has ever ask you in an interview?
We would like to comment something about the Aspects of Influence and the importance of culture. It is something previously commented by the photographer Ralph Gibson: a photographer gains a great deal through culture. It broadens your vision. Culture is very important to forge a personal aesthetic. In Europe art has traditionally been taught through the academic approach of copying a masterpiece and hopefully learn something in the process. As photography authors, we think that you must learn from the great names of literature, sculpture, philosophy, painting, cinema, architecture, science… and remember that all the masters of these human activities had their own list of influences. It is really a matter of what one does with that which has come before.
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Thesis Project: Leah SchretenthalerMay 5th, 2020