Photo by Maurice Sanchez
September 13th, 2014
Old Forge, NY
Hello everyone. Thank you for coming today. It is an honor to be here and share my work with you. My show is called “Irruption”, but today I would really like to talk to you about connections.
I was trained as a painter.
For about ten years I intensely painted large, abstract paintings. I was taught to observe the world in an abstract manner.. to look beyond the obvious… literally and conceptually.
I almost entirely avoided figurative painting, and exclusively focused on shapes, lines and color; composition of the empty space using paint as paint.. nothing else. For me painting was a very physical act, violent at times and always very visceral. A lot of my paintings were built around the concept of memory and how it is shaped by the passing of time. I have always been obsessed on how we remember events, places and people because I feel memory has to do more with who we are and who we become than the real event, place or person inside the memory. Back then I use to dismiss photography, I use to think of it as a way to cheat memory, a medium too exact, too rigid when it came to altering memories. I was not into photography at all and I avoided it at any costs.
Six years after graduating art school, I woke up and I found my self as a founder and CEO of a advertising agency; things changed. Not because of advertising, but because I did not have time or energy to keep painting. After 12 hour-days in my office, after intense meeting, after several presentations a day, there was no way I was going to lock my self in the studio and paint. I was tired, drained… dazed and confused.
My mom had raised us very close to nature. My first memories are of picking strawberries in the mountains and climbing trees, so to face the new element in my life, stress, I again turned to nature. My wife and I bought a place in the mountains of Jarabacoa and built a small cabin. I started talking walks in the woods, hiking for entire days and I started to feel like my self again. Jarabacoa is still today my happy place. Then one day I had a close encounter with a little elf of the dominican forests: The Broad-billed Tody (Todus subulatus). I could not believe I had been living in this island for all my life and I had never seen this beautiful bird… this amazing little creature, and I knew then, that I wanted to discover more and more. That is how nature photography started for me. I bought my first camera in 2010 and since then I have been balancing running the ad agency with family life with and this uncontrollable and evermore intense passion.
The way I approach photography is very much conditioned by my art training: I think of shapes, light, color, narrative, but at the same time I now know the relevance of photography. I now know the power of an image and I also know, that there is no painting or drawing that can compare to the beauty and magic of mother nature.
I used to MAKE art, now I FIND art… I find it in places, in leaves, in creatures, in dust flying into the light… I find art and I try to discover the best possible way to portray it and put my voice in it. I now see the world, not only in shapes, shades and lines, but also as a constant search for the perfect picture. I am now more aware of the creatures than inhabit this planet and how fascinating and fragile they are. I now try to make nature my own without physically doing so.
There are some nature photographers who approach this craft from a scientific place. They try to document species and behaviours, they try to collect, photographically speaking, as many species as they can, the rarest the better. That is a very hard thing to do and I feel nothing but respect for those folks. Others approach it from the conservationist point of view. They try to denounce injustices, raise awareness towards endangered species and protect our environment. I feel even greater respect for those who do this kind of work. But I am driven by something else. I do enjoy science and I love to photograph and study new species. I do feel committed to the environment and I hope my work somehow can inspire others to take care of such a wonderful treasure. But I am not a scientist nor my approach is scientific. I am neither an activist even though sometimes I behave like one. I think of my self as an artist and this is my medium. This is the art than makes me feel useful and it gives me purpose. Science aims to generate knowledge and help us understand the world. Conservationism aims to create awareness and mitigate our impact on the planet. I feel art can function in either of these territories and many more, but for me, art aims to inspire, to touch the soul and make it more sensible to our surroundings. Art seeks to create connections between people and emotions. And we are all looking for a connections in our lives: we seek them in our friends, our families, our jobs, religions, philosophies… everywhere. I feel connected to nature and art, both ethically and aesthetically and I search to explore and understand that connection.
I know eventually I’ll start painting again. I feel the urge to do so. But when I do, my passion for nature and exploring the world, will be, without a trace of doubt, a big part of it.