Pep Àvila has worked on photography in nearly all its facets: advertising, travel, documentary, portrait... and fashion. Inspired by the world of cinema, his obsession with creating a particular atmosphere in each of his projects leads him to create scenes in between reality and fiction. During his more than twenty years of experience, he has received prestigious awards. One of the most recent was the Lux Prize in the category of Fashion and Beauty, which was delivered to him last November by the Association of Professional Photographers of Spain in a ceremony that took place at the Design Museum of Barcelona. Àvila's work is part of the fashion collection at the Museum and, along with more than 500 photographs of 38 Spanish photographers, belongs to the online collection of the Design Museum.
We talk to him about what he looks for in front of his lens, how his photography has changed since he started shooting and how the image is being used to educate us.
How do you understand photography?
For me photography is to look and everyone's eyes are personal and non-transferable. I try to enjoy, to understand. They say that looks deceive. And after looking a lot through the lens, you realize that it is not true. To me photography has made me wake up very early, travel to unexpected places, talk to people I did not know and also to wait a lot. Photography makes you an untiring, bold and patient predator.
How much Pep Ávila is in your snapshots?
It's actually very difficult to recognise what's in my photos, because I can not look with other eyes. The look of each photographer is different, because there are things we want to see, that we are constantly looking for and there are others that we reject because they are ugly, vulgar or they hurt us.
What are you looking for, and what do you run away from?
Sometimes I seek to recreate situations that I would like to live, movies that I would like to direct. Others, simply, I play with the colors, the aesthetics, the composition... Fashion photography must always propose a visual component, and therefore it should surprise you. I refuse to deliberately introduce women as a sexual object and force attitudes. Also, when I make fashion with children, I like to create a work space and let them free. I try for everything to be natural, not to force things.
Which is your creative process in the fashion editorials?
I often start from an idea that I have in mind, from a place where I would like to work or from an actor or a model. Everything else from there I just let roll. I always try to look for the atmosphere when I work. This tone is determined by the composition, light, color correction, point of view, contrast, texture... but also with whom you choose to work. In this sense, all the images that are made in a fashion collection, whether for a campaign or an editorial, should be coherent with each other.
Your photographs breathe a cinematic mystic, such as Maria Candelaria, The Statue of the Forum and Insomnia No. 4, which are part of the fashion photography collection of the Design Museum. What brings you to that?
Sometimes I seek to tell stories that can transcend the anecdote of clothes, I want to go further. I want images to be seen within ten years and still be interesting. This has always been done in fashion photography. What the artist Philip-Lorca diCorcia does, for example, is to create a series of images that speak of a story, as if they were frames of a movie. For me this is ideal. Actually, for me, sometimes fashion photography is very short.
In which sense?
In the sense it has a very brief reading. I am a lot more interested when the photographer has the ability to take his image to explain something else. With just one image you can create a story. It can be from the mystery. It is about offering readings, different layers of interpretation, so [an image] never lets you stop staring at it. It does not necessarily have to be a drama, it can be a happy story, but there must be something that will make you want to see it again. Much of fashion photography ends very quickly.
You have worked on advertising photography, documentaries, trips... How do you work such a large record?
My versatility, this possibility of working different languages, is explained only by the need not to repeat myself. To always do the same would make me very bored of my personality. I like to, at least, propose to myself. Afterwards getting it or not it depends on many things. For me it is important to find the tone of each project and look for a particular atmosphere, and that is what allows me to be versatile. In addition, there are mergers between the different disciplines that can be innovative.
For more than two decades, photography and fashion have experienced a process of radical transformation. How have your images evolved in parallel with it?
The emergence of digital photography has allowed us to have a much more absolute control of the process. Personally, it has given me a lot more freedom, especially in the colour and treatment of the image. Regarding the content, I have been much more aware of the role of women.
Do social networks limit you?
In the networks there are very interesting images, aside from giving us many opportunities to spread what we do. We are much more distracted and, in particular, it is hard for me to focus much more than before. We access a myriad of wonderful images which often not only distract me but block me. After seeing all this, what can I do? Is it even worth doing anything else? There are times I do not know where to start. Oversaturation blocks you.
Some of your campaigns breathe a desire to raise awareness. Is photography being used as a pedagogical tool?
In any case, it can be used. The photograph has a very important value because it has the capacity to impact. We can take advantage of it. The main purpose is to create realities or describe them, as in the case of documentary photography. In my case, I have done campaigns and social projects because the causes they defended were very interesting to me, and I hope I can continue doing this a long time.