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Back in 2011 I visited Alaska in a family trip. Despite being a vacation journey I was able to visit unusual places for the average tourist: Katmai, Kaktovic, Barrow among other more traditional destinations. Since then I have been traveling around the globe, looking for wild places, wild creatures and our connection to them. This obsession has taken me to places like the Okavango Delta, the Namib Desert, the Finnish Arctic, the Ecuadorian Amazonia, the Serengeti and many other of all the magical places in this planet.

After being in constant awe of nature and making it the main subject of my creative process I decided to go back to Alaska and explore some of it’s areas a bit more thoroughly. As an artist I try to go beyond documenting nature and explore a more spiritual approach, aiming to capture the stillness within the wilderness. Inspired by the wine world, I have conceptualised a “photographic terroir”; a combination of light, temperature, topography and geology.

This recent journey, which I’ve dubbed #TheGreatArcticAdventure took me to Cape Krusesntern, the Delong Mountains and the rugged, vertical coast of Katmai.

I have put together ( I apologise for my awful editing skills) a short video about my trip:

And you can see an image selection at http://www.mariodavalos.com/Alaska2015

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Photographing wildlife can be very rewarding. There is something fascinating about watching wild animals move freely in their natural environment. I feel complete and whole when I find my self in these situations. I understand my role in nature, my duty, my joy and briefly, everything makes sense.

But there is also an extremely sad side to my job; witnessing in real time the alarming disappearance of wild places and creatures. From the Amazon to the Okavango to Alaska to my home Dominican Republic, wild places are vanishing rapidly.  We keep taking what is not ours and adding things that should not be; buildings, debris, mines, settlements…Things that are now where they aren’t supposed to be.

This is how the idea of “Insertions”, my latest project, came to be.

These are not digital manipulations, but real photographs taken in different places of the world, then printed, mounted and carried around to another location… where they don’t belong. I have placed elephants in the Dunes of Peravia, Dominican Republic, a flp-necked chameleon in Ebano Verde and so on…

This is a on going project and I hope to work on it for the next few years and to take it as far as I can.

These are only the first images, many more will follow.

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Last year I published my top 20 shots of 2013. Looking back on that selection, I am sure I would have chosen differently if done today. Every week I still review images from three, four and five years ago and I see great images I hadn’t notice before as well as images I thought great and are not so awesome after all. This year I traveled a bit less than previous ones, but I felt my approach to nature photography mature and grew more personal. With my book on Africa published  in november, over 20,000 miles flown, over 50,000 shots taken and countless hours of reviewing and editing, this year was intense. Today I share with you a selection that will surely look flawed and weak just a couple of weeks from now. I tried to choose images that reflect a narrative and my pictorial approach rather than just “pretty” images. I feel this selection represents the way I think about art, photography and nature. Hope you enjoy them and please feel free to share your thoughts.Happy holidays!

20. Snowy Owl in Flatbush Ave, Brooklyn, NY. 

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19. Gull over the Mediterranean, Turkey. 
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18. Low tide at Ruby Beach, W.A.
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17. Boreal forest, Adirondacks, NY. 
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16. Lion Cub, Okavango Delta, Botswana.BJ9Q6859

15. Female elk in the rainforest of Lake Quinault, W.A.

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14. Sand snake in the Namib desert, Namibia. AJ4D6132

13.”Esperanza” cricket, Jarabacoa, Dominican Republic.CF6A8002

12. Male lion on the move in Botswana. AJ4D8535

11. Brants in Jones Beach, NYC.CF6A6573


10. Hikers in the desert, Namibia. AJ4D6430
9. Hispaniolan Solenodon, Pedernales, Dominican Republic. BJ9Q0695

8. Snowy Owl in Lake Champlain, Vermont. CF6A5480

7. Antillean bullfinches and Yagrumo, Ebano Verde, Dominican Republic. AJ4D2958

6. Flamingoes in Laguna de Oviedo, Dominican Republic. BJ9Q2918

5. Hippo at sunrise, Okavango Delta, Botswana. BJ9Q4613

4. Lilac-breasted Roller eating lunch in Tau Pan, Botswana.BJ9Q9896

3. The roar of a male lion, Tau Pan, Botswana.
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2. Hippo from above, Okavango Delta, Botswana. BJ9Q5909-Edit

1. Tricolored Heron, Salinas de Baní, Dominican Republic. 

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Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 12.19.47 PMPractice makes perfect. There is no doubt that taking a lot of photographs makes you better photographer. But that does not mean that all you have to do to get better is press the shutter a lot. How I conceive Nature Photography, the intelectual part of it weighs a lot. Both ethically and aesthetically the creative process is filled with decisions that need to be made constantly and spontaneously.

With photography, the creative process is simplified in three parts:

1. Which photographs to take.

2. Which photographs to process.

3. Which photographs to show.

At least in my opinion, each of these steps presents an opportunity for your personality and taste to come trough. It sounds a lot easier than it actually is, and form me, choosing the 45 images that best represent what I am about was hard work.

After months debating and asking for opinions, I finally managed to choose my favourite images among thousands of possibilities. These images are important for me for different reasons:

• They illustrate my aesthetic choices when it comes to photography.

• They successfully tell the narratives that are important to me.

• They show innovative ways to compose the frame.

• They use the light in a creative manner.

I hope you agree and I welcome your feedback:

http://www.mariodavalos.org/favorites

Photo by Maurice Sanchez

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.

Thank you.

Ok.. so it has taken a while but I think finally the website is in its final stage… for now.

I’ve put a lot of time in figuring out the best way to portray my personal approach to art-making and photography. I really wanted to have a space where the images would be the main character with enough “breathing space. As a photographer and an artist, investing so much time in designing and organising a website’s content is not necessarily the most fun thing to do, but is the thing one must do.

Anyways, check it out. Feedback is welcomed!

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Now that I have been deeply involved with photographing nature for over a year, I decided to look back at my pictorial work from 1997-2006 with a different perspective. Maybe, I thought, I would now look back and find new caves in my work and maybe, just maybe, find the energy to get back to the studio and in front of a new blank canvas.

It turns out I did. I remember writing my thesis back in 2000 and having in mind subjects like maps, constellations, identity struggles, geography, socio-political events… but back then, nature was not part of any of my themes or concerns… but it was always there. In almost every painting or drawing nature was alive and breathing. From the organic lines to the few figurative elements in some of the paintings to the animal-like expressions of daily objects… actually those hair clips that I drew over and over in 02 and 03, today look like birds to me. Don’t they?

It is hard to get back into the painting mind frame, but I do feel the hunger in my eyes to interpret with charcoal and acrylics everything I see. Is it a cycle? Was this absence from painting necessary? Is it just a business hangover effect? I’m not quite sure, but today I looked at a Cy Twombly painting and felt the same overwhelming emotion I did ten years ago. I think tonight I’ll unearth the Francis Bacon books and Robert Motherwell’s writings. I think today something happened… I am sure it did, because today I feel like painting again.