Just under two thousand photographs from 275 photographers from twenty-nine countries, registered to participate in the first edition of the Alicia Alonso Dance Photography Contest.
At first, 371 images from 136 artists were preselected, among which Ernesto Cruz, Antonio Nores, Sergio Martínez, Ernesto Millán and Leslie Loyola deserved places.
Of them, 53 lens artists were selected as finalists with 73 photographic images in the categories portrait, stage, backstage, dance classes, studio and dance in landscapes and 35 in documentary series.
The city of Matanzas also has two representatives in the last stage of the competition, dedicated to the Prima Ballerina Assoluta. David López was chosen with his works Equilibrio y Dominio, while Yoel Marrero competes with Aquelarre.
On their experiences and considerations about their participation in the contest and photography in general, Radio 26 spoke with these talented young people.
-If you had to define your work, how would you do it?
In Equilibrio (finalist in the dance in landscapes category) David connects a dreamlike environment where the colors of nature stand out with the force of two bodies that, although separated, project an inevitable, playful, passionate attraction.
DL: If I’m honest, I don’t know how to define my work. I know that there are genres that they like the most; for example, I love telling stories about other people, essentially documentary photography.
I enjoy immersing myself in those landscapes, in those sunsets. They are sensations that have no description.
YM: I think my work is very young and is practically beginning, so if I had to label it or define it, I would be putting limits on what I could or want to do in the future. I have a clear path but I am always open to new ideas.
I usually do conceptual, commercial, documentary and street portraits. Each of them gives me new knowledge that complements each other. But if I had to define it with one word, it would be experimental photography.
-What other motives inspire you?
DL: My inspiration is purely photographic. Photography, which started a couple of years ago as a hobby, is now what gives my life meaning. I can’t stop capturing images. There are so many genres within this world, some I have experienced and with others I have not managed to connect. This time I wanted to try a theme as exquisite as dance. It was wonderful.
With Aquelarre Yoel Marrero set out to convey the effort and dedication that dance artists put into their work.
YM: The sources of inspiration come to me in multiple ways: music and the plastic arts especially. Music because sometimes it accompanies an image very well, almost always by sounds that are part of a song or that come from an instrument.
The plastic arts have always caught my attention. When I was little I really enjoyed painting and I find it very interesting how the artists of yesteryear, despite not having the resources we have today, achieved impressive aesthetics with the use of color, light, composition, and atmosphere.
-When did you consciously take a camera to make images? When did you first become photographers?
DL: I felt like a photographer during the two times I was a volunteer at the isolation center at the University of Matanzas. There I made a fairly extensive documentary project about what is happening in the country today.
YM: The first time I took a camera in my hands was around six years ago, thanks to a friend of mine who gave me the opportunity to work with him. I can’t say that from that moment I felt like a photographer, but I realized that in my hands he had a very powerful tool with which he could create a lot.
For an amateur photographer to have the possibility of having a camera in his hands for the first time and being able to take pictures, learning how it works feels very good.
-What do you like the most about your job?
Dominio shows that to make an original photo full of readings, large scenographies are not essential; a minimal context can make a face more interesting, a body that exudes intensity, grace and style.
DL: With respect to the other jobs, photography is one of the most beautiful there is. What I like most about it is knowing. I feel that with photography I live the lives of many people, I know about their fears or joys, I interact with the world around me. That’s magical, I can’t find another word to describe it.
YM: What I like most about my job when doing documentary and street photography is the relationship and interaction that I manage to have with people. I know new people who contribute a lot to me because they have experienced things that I have not. I also really enjoy working with children because it is like going back to that stage of my life.
-What photograph would you have liked to take, that you have not yet been able to capture?
DL: I can’t tell you what photograph I would have liked to take. I do know that I would like to travel the entire island, photographing each of its corners, its landscapes, its people. I would love to know other cultures, other countries. I have not thought of an image that I would like to achieve; I am more interested in living and capturing everything that catches my attention.
YM: I would like to take a photo of three brothers who live separated by the world. They are my two uncles and my dad. I’ve never seen them together.
-Do you follow a routine when taking a photo?
DL: I don’t usually follow a routine. It depends on the photos you are going to take; For example, when it comes to a commission, I do try to organize some elements so that everything flows better, but when I do documentary photography, the more I try to achieve a line, the less I succeed. That kind of work comes out on its own. Just walking, getting lost in the streets of the city, images begin to emerge.
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YM: I wouldn’t say that I follow a routine as such. I just make sure I am clear about what I want to capture. That is the most important. Then come technical elements: the parameters of the camera and everything that has to do with light.
For conceptual photography, I do have a series of stages prior to capturing the photo. I usually draw or write what I want to achieve and later I start experimenting and playing with light.
-In your opinion, how can you tell that this is a good photograph?
DL: A prominent photographer said that when you can spend more than a minute looking at an image, that image is good. There are many parameters that serve to measure the quality of an image, but everything goes through subjectivity. Many of the most famous photos are not technically well done, nor even fulfill those parameters; however have remained for history. Time is the only one that can tell you if the image is as good as you thought it would be.
YM: A good photograph is one that does not need an explanation or a name to communicate.
-What challenges does it take you to do it, what should we have besides a good eye of course?
DL: In photography I found that, as with many things in life, it takes practice. I do not consider that I was born with a gift. If any specialist reviews the first images I captured, they will realize that they are not special. I know many people who started with better photos. However, they stopped practicing, studying to educate the eye. I continued studying and my photography reaches a higher level compared to those of my beginnings. As you practice, the more you improve.
YM: The fact of facing photography is a challenge. You have to study hard and practice. More than a good eye, you need to be aware of the world we live in and, above all, to be a good person.
.Photos: courtesy of interviewees.
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Original by Jessica Mesa Duarte.