FA4M Mag interviews Carmelo Blazquez Jimenez.
FA4M: Why are you a photographer?
CBJ: I have always been passionate about the world of art in all its forms, but I do not believe I have the required qualities of a painter or sculptor. Since as long as I can remember, there was always a camera in my house – in general, my family has always liked photography. I remember entire mornings with my mother and sisters, lying in bed and looking through old family photos that my mother kept in an old cookie box. I liked photography in general, but I especially responded to travel photography and black and white nudes. Only five years ago, did I start my photography studies at the School of Design and Image IDEP in Barcelona. And I was fascinated to understand controlling light in photography is like learning to do magic. I took up the desire to be a sculptor, a sculptor, but different, a sculptor of light: the darkness in my photographs is my marble. And light is like my chisel. Photography allows me to paint and sculpt with light. I extract from the darkness of the black backgrounds my models’ bodies, sometimes incomplete, as with a half-finished sculpture or as with those ancient sculptures that have deteriorated over time. To generate an image from my imagination, from concept to finding the right model, to execution, still seems like a mystical act. It is the closest thing I will ever find to the feeling of giving birth to a child and it still excites me.
FA4M: How long have you been producing your work?
CBJ: I started my photography work about five years ago focusing on the play of light and shadows especially on the male body.
FA4M: How do you select the subjects of your work?
CBJ: My compositions are most often informed by Art History, an inexhaustible source. Sometimes, in my process, I am engaged only with the model and the body. I am inspired, say, only by the posture, or a hand, or an arm, or a leg that fascinates me. In some cases, I merge this gesture from a source such as a painting or a sculpture with the minimalist re-interpretation of a myth, or a historical, religious, or literary event, or with a feeling or emotion. In other words, my sources and my inspirations are varied but often pass through art history, myth, religion, and literature. I also love the feeling of manipulating perception for the viewer and playing with symbols and signs. My raw material might be a young man with an object in his hand. But suddenly the young man is no longer a model, no longer his name, now with fruit in his hand. He is transmuted by history, by an ancient history of symbols. Like, when I was young, looking at the image of the nearly naked man in church – only the crown of thorns, the wounds, the skimpy loincloth. A mortal man with beautifully perfect musculature; and also the son of God.
FA4M: Who are your favorite artists? And why?
CBJ: I’ve always been attracted to the world of art – for the philosophy of aesthetics, for the beauty of a painting, a sculpture or a building. And for the elevation of contemplating the beautiful. My passion for the aesthetics crosses cultures form anywhere in the world. Art-making is the sublime expression, almost divine, of human beings. My references are the great classics of painting and sculpture, starting with the sculptors of Classical Greece (Phidias, Scopas, Praxiteles, Polykleitos, Lysippus, Myron, among others) moving through all the ancient and unattributed treasures including: funerary masks, jewelry, the fresh Egyptian royal tombs or the Villa of the Mysteries in Pompeii. And then the long list of Pre-Renaissance, Renaissance, and Mannerist painters. The tenuous dark of Baroque painters seems fascinating to me. And finally, the neoclassical artists. I take from this long tradition much of what I like for my work: naked bodies half-hidden, light and shadow, innuendo, darkness, allegories, myths, symbolism, mysticism, tragedy, death. I also want to mention the great printmakers of the nineteenth century, such as Gustad Doré, and though less popular but very beautiful, the works of Sascha Schneider. And sculptors Arno Breker and Thorak – although they were disgraced for having developed their work in the shadow of Nazi Germany and mostly discounted by art history as well. In photography, my admiration is directed to such greats as Wilhelm Von Gloeden, Robert Mapplethorpe, Richard Avedon and, someone more contemporary, David Vance. I also almost owe my start in male nude photography to a Spanish photographer, Manel Ortega. There are other contemporary photographers as well, Spanish and other nationalities too, with fascinating works and projects. Finally, one other source of inspiration are social networks like Tumblr and Behance. A long trip from ancient art to Tubmlr.
FA4M: How do you describe your work?
CBJ: My work is an intimate and humble craft. My photos are a tribute to those many and anonymous model studies necessary for painters and sculptors to develop their work. There is also a tribute to the beginnings of male nude photographer. I hope in my work there is no great pretension. During the shoot, there is just me and the model. I endeavor to create a welcoming environment for the desired results. But mostly I need the complicity of the model and his comfort to give one of the most intimate aspects of his life: his nakedness. Nudity is usually reserved for when we clean ourselves or when we love physically or when we are sick and have to be cared or when we are shrouded in death. The naked man feels vulnerable and fragile. It is much to ask a model to be naked with you. I prefer my models natural. I do not use makeup or stylists or assistants. I seek the natural and authentic beauty of the person. I seek the unique and fleeting moment of collaboration, of a shared experience. When we are finished with the photo session we will both be closer to death, but thanks to the magic of photography, we can turn mortal men into eternal and beautiful gods. While my work is very traditional, I do not avoid the progress of digital photography. I use photo editing software to make any small improvements. I prefer to take a good picture in the studio than to spend many hours tweaking the image on my computer. But I am, I am economical. For me too much styling, too much makeup, too much manipulation can damage the eye, the aesthetic.
FA4M: What is the most satisfying moment of your production process?
CBJ: Actually there are three very gratifying moments in my production process. The first is when I make a sketch on paper, that moment of concept is pure creation. I am there with my passions, my phobias, my desires. Someone, perhaps, can copy my image but they cannot copy my soul. The second moment is only for my eyes. When I have the model in the flesh before me, giving life to the idea in that sketch. And at last, the third moment of satisfaction comes after the battle in the quiet of my home when reviewing the photographs I have taken and I can see the image I dreamed of, the sketch, has come true and is more perfect than I had imagined.
FA4M: What are some of the challenges of your process?
CBJ: In my work, the challenge is always practical: taking naked photographs. I do not work with professional models, and although my photography is not always nude, nudity is the state in which the human being is most fragile and vulnerable, but also closer to his animal nature. Working my model nude, even though we have never met before, even though we have only spoken by email or over the phone requires effort and managing expectations before and during the shoot. For this reason, I like working with models that make my job easier – they have seen my work and want to work with me and they trust me. I put no limits on creation. The very practical challenge of making my models comfortable, and the implied trust in that effort, will be reflected in the result and authenticity of the final image.
FA4M: What is beauty?
For me, beauty, while hard to define, has always been related to the world of emotions and almost mystical. You cannot really impose standards. Beauty, of course, is subjective. In the presence of something beautiful, we stop, we feel overwhelmed, and in our contemplation, we feel pleasure and a sense of the mystical. In my case, since I was little, I have been attracted by the beauty and the perfection of the male body. In beauty there is also the mixture of admiration and the forbidden, of sin and desire. The first time in my life where I saw a nearly naked man, with perfect musculature, was in church: the icon of Christianity. Since then there has existed this passionate mix of eroticism and tragedy in the Baroque religious imagery – a terrible agony in the face with bleeding wounds conflicting with the beauty of the perfect male body. So it was that in a world full of taboos regarding nudity, in the church, without shame, you were welcomed, encouraged even, to contemplate for hours the image of a naked man. No one construed this as problematic – the symbol, the wounds, the crown of thorns, the cross, transformed the image of man into the child of God (I’ve done the same in my Mythos series). You could study each muscle, the armpits in tension, the perfection of his ribs, the transfixion of the crucifixion, desire transfigured into devotion or devotion transfigured into desire. It was shameless. And I soon discovered, outside of the church, this was also true of art. For hours, you could look at a sculpture or a painting of a naked man, and no one would stop you. It was this contemplation of art, of symbols, of beauty where I felt free. It is an experience that still happens to me, where a work of art will stop me, and I become fascinated with forms and color and content. And I can reach an intermediate ecstasy – the point where we do not know if we experience a feeling of mysticism or of the erotic. I undoubtedly believe that man is one of the masterpieces of nature and therefore I want to work to enhance and exalt that natural beauty. I think anybody, any body, is beautiful in its natural perfection regardless of the stage of life. Leonardo DaVinci says “Beauty dies in life but is immortal in Art”. In front of my camera, my models are most often young. But in the work, in the image, they are as immortal as gods.
FA4M: What is erotic?
CBJ: The erotic is the waiting room where lives hidden sexual impulses. Gestures, forms, hints, containing reminiscent moments of carnal pleasure. Eroticism plays with our imagination and with our subconscious, but also with the memory of the flesh. Yes, my photographs contain a lot of the erotic.
FA4M: Is there such a thing as gay art, a gay aesthetic?
CBJ: In my opinion, art is universal. No sex, no sexual orientation. We respond to a work personally, individually, based on our ideology, our culture, our desires, or mood, our own personal erotic. It is necessarily subjective. Michelangelo’s David, the Sistine Chapel full of male nudes: is it gay art? Is it gay for its subject? Is it gay for its concept? Is it gay for its creator? The work, in the end, is universal.
What’s more, there are works of art that have produced in me the blush of erotic orgasm that did not contain a single nude. Creative processes are driven by what we love, and hate, and want – sometimes explicitly, and sometimes more implicitly. But the artist’s creation should not be classified into different drawers. As a species, humans have the pestering need to classify everything in order to control it. I have no need to go messing in drawers, whether art is considered gay or erotic or pornographic or fine art. That’s not my problem. I only create the images. I do what I want without stopping to classify, although clearly my photographs have certain implied sexual instincts that inhabit and preoccupy my imagination.