Raúl Hidalgo is an analog photographer who lives in Barcelona and is increasingly one of the better known and influential photographers in the world today. His pictures of young people and artists fill the pages of international magazines, and his future looks really bright. He sees life in black and white and loves cinema – his next film adventure will be much talked about. Everybody wants their picture taken by Hidalgo.
Interview by E. Gión
You discovered the world of photography at a very early age, using the family analog camera. I think you fell in love right then and there with this photographic style, which you still use today. Is it so?
There was always a camera at my parents’ house. I would spend hours taking pictures of my family and spaces where we lived and played, anything I fancied. I loved to shoot even without a film in the camera.
I thought it was magical. I couldn’t wait to see the end results. One day my brother bought an analog reflex camera, which ended up being mine, and from that moment on I’ve always felt the need to take pictures. I still think it’s something magical, and I really look forward to the developing of my pictures.
You maintain a very personal and clearly distinctive seal when you see an image taken by you. For instance, the way you use natural light in all your photos; the play of light and shadow, like a fight between the two.
I’m glad you say that, I’ve always thought that the best thing an artist can be is to be absolutely identifiable by their work.
Usually, or pretty much always, I work with natural light in totally distinctive spaces; I’m fascinated by abandoned places because, in my opinion, it’s a chance to give them a second life. I try to keep the framing as geometrical and balanced as possible, but I also like to distort the image with natural elements, partially covering the face – or the space – as a way of demonstrating my own shyness, or including the model’s. I avoid perfection in my photos. About a third of my sessions are ideas that I already have in mind, the rest comes up with the the model, the light that is there at that moment and what I imagine with that light in that place. I like playing with the shadows, small points of light, drawing shadows on the skin and creating an atmosphere of light and darkness. Most of my pictures are in black and white; black and white have a hint of poetry, and also realize the chiaroscuro effect that I always aim for.
Your photography is very cinematographic, it is strongly reminiscent of classical cinema and the masters of natural light. If we analyze one of your portraits, we can conclude it’s a modern portrait, powerful and primal, but with a classical – even Film Noir – undertone.
My second passion is cinema, so it’s only normal that this shows through my work. I’m greatly inspired by classical cinema directors such as Dreyer, Pasolini, Yasujiro Ozu, etc. All their movies have masterful photography; each frame is a piece of art. But I’m also influenced by more modern directors such as Wong Kar Wai, Gus Van Sant, Harmony Korine, Leos Carax, Wim Wenders and of course Larry Clark, to whom I dedicated a series of photos as a tribute.
The portrait series we can see in this article has a very personal style, with the theme of broken youth, fragmented in black and white. They have a rebellious nature and punk spirit, but always with a touch of salvation, redemption even.
Who hasn’t felt a little lost when they were young, or hasn’t wanted to show off their rebellious side? That’s what I want to show in my “Youth in Trouble” series. When you are young, you want to conquer the world, and at the same time you’re scared of it – or at least that’s what happened to me. Punk culture has always fascinated for me.
These pictures belong to a future work, which you offer exclusively for this magazine. Can you tell us about where this work comes from, the initial idea, and also what we can expect to see from Raúl Hidalgo in the future.
In fact, it all started with my tribute to Larry Clark. Clark’s films.are a constant cry of salvation of young people. From there I thought that I want to continue with this theme, but make it more my own, and that’s how the “Youth in Trouble” series began. This is a series that will never be completed…I’m always discovering new young people.
Also, as you know Eduardo, we’re finishing our second experimental film “POEME”, which will be an adaptation of SCRIBE’s poems, filmed exclusively with Super 8 and VHS, with the participation of David Croland, Bibbe Hansen and Michael Alig, among others. While we were shooting, I took advantage of the opportunity to take pictures of the characters.
You’ve had in front of your lens many renowned artists from all over the world, for international publications. They’re all analog close-ups or tight face shots in black and white, where you really humanize their character, and even showing the inner being of the artists. With just one look, you strip bare the artists you’re shooting. How do you obtain that intimacy with the person photographed?
I’ve been so lucky to photograph great masters of photography, such as Greg Gorman, Bob Gruen, Derek Ridgers… and cinema directors such as Isabel Coixet, Bruce Labruce… for my SHOT BY SHOT series. I’m a very shy person, thus none of my models feel intimidated by me. I’m very observant; I know that usually the first pictures will be discarded, so I use them to observe and try to see the inner side of that person, there always comes a moment during the session when I say NOW, and that’s when I see the person relaxing, no longer intimidated by the lens, and I take the close-up then. With Jonas Mekas, everything was different, he didn’t have a lot of time and he himself showed me his look. I took only three pictures and after the third one, he told me I already had the picture, and I had it indeed. It is one of the portraits that I hold dearest.
(outtake from print issue LUST)