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Emerging Selection 2011: Photographer from Puerto Rico, Werner SEGARRA

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Born in Puerto Rico
Works and Lives in Phoenix, AZ

@GEBERT CONTEMPORARY

Werner SEGARRA BLOG

“Werner SEGARRA: L’authenticité retrouvée” par Beatrice Chassepot
INTERVIEW de WERNER SEGARRA par Beatrice Chassepot  (eng version)

 

Casa Grande (Concha) 2006 Print Sizes 44" x 55", 38" x 44", 24" x 30". Limited edition. Series of 12 Courtesy the artist and Gebert Contemporary
Casa Grande (Concha) 2006
Print Sizes 44″ x 55″, 38″ x 44″, 24″ x 30″. Limited edition. Series of 12
Courtesy the artist and Gebert Contemporary

 

El Zaguán (Buena Vista) 2006 Print Sizes 44" x 55", 38" x 44", 24" x 30". Limited edition. Series of 12 Courtesy the artist and Gebert Contemporary
El Zaguán (Buena Vista) 2006
Print Sizes 44″ x 55″, 38″ x 44″, 24″ x 30″. Limited edition. Series of 12
Courtesy the artist and Gebert Contemporary

 

 

“Werner SEGARRA: L’authenticité retrouvée” par Beatrice Chassepot

Au fil des années la photographie a acquis le label « art contemporain » en prenant clairement deux grandes directions.

  • L’une est celle de la composition métaphorique utilisant la large palette des possibilités et outils techniques à disposition. L’image y est soit travaillée par Photoshop (cf la chinoise Cui Xiuwen) soit au préalable minutieusement composée (cf l’artiste américaine Laura Letisnky).
  • L’autre voie est celle du Réalisme ou Naturalisme qui prend sa source directement dans la Peinture (cf Velasquez) et s’attache à montrer ce que l’œil voit in situ (cf le photographe espagnol Miguel Rio Blanco). Chacune comprenant des sous catégories.

Si la voie de composition métaphorique est clairement identifiée comme « contemporaine », parfois jusqu’à sa propre caricature, les contours de la voie Naturaliste peuvent donner lieu à des interprétations plus floues, qui la rendent d’autant plus intéressante. C’est la voie la moins évidente si l’on veut intégrer le marché de l’art contemporain et c’est celle qu’a choisi le talentueux photographe Porto Ricain d’origine allemande Werner Segarra.

En parallèle d’une brillante carrière en tant que photographe d’architecture Werner Segarra développait une histoire plus intime avec la photographie qu’il nous livre pour notre plus grand bonheur.

Il a eu la chance de partager l’univers des Vaqueros de la Cruz del Diablo (Les Vachers de la Croix du Diable) au Mexique. Leur nom contient déjà en soi les éléments d’un roman naturaliste aux accents forts et singuliers, mais il restait à trouver le ton juste pour les mettre en lumière. Il ne fallait pas tomber dans le reportage documentaire ni dans le trop « arty ».

  • Tomber dans les excès du documentaire aurait été de fabriquer une belle image choc, qui par son côté trop spectaculaire aurait tendance à transformer le spectateur en juge trop hâtif d’un peuple ou une idée. La communauté des Vaqueros de la Cruz del Diablo vaut mieux que cela.
  • Il ne fallait pas faire trop « arty », c’est-à-dire ne pas être trop elliptique -dire trop peu- sous peine de perdre le sens et devenir trop universel. Il fallait conserver aux Vaqueros leur caractère unique.

Werner Segarra a opté pour un choix exigeant,  celui de l’authenticité : montrer l’essentiel sans détails superflus, faire poser les Vaqueros dans leur contexte mais sans mise en scène exubérante, dans leur contexte, sans artifices, sans surexposition.

Pour en arriver à cette simplicité qui, seule, traduit l’authenticité d’un être, d’un lieu, d’une communauté, il a fallu que le photographe en passe par une compréhension préalable, une digestion mentale ai-je envie de dire de cette histoire qu’il avait sous ses yeux. Prendre le temps de comprendre pour donner du sens avant de shooter ; se poser mille questions puis élaborer le story board pour dérouler le fil de l’histoire.

Le résultat est magnifique. L’image n’est pas spoliée, l’authenticité est là. Elle intimide même. Vous avez du respect pour cette femme assise auprès de son meuble rutilant, une cigarette à la main (voir ci-dessus). Sur cette photographie, peu d’éléments, un portrait de femme accroché au mur, un meuble vitrine, un bouquet séché, des portes ouvertes mais tout semble dit.

Au fil des photographies, l’histoire des Vaqueros de la Cruz del Diablo se déroule pour constituer un corpus cohérent, sobre, qui tout à la fois dévoile mais conserve leurs secrets intacts.

Sans nul doute il s’agit ici d’art. Werner Segarra dépoussière le mot Authenticité et lui redonne toute sa noblesse.

Beatrice Chassepot
Los Angeles, le 26 février 2011

Federico Print Sizes 44" x 55", 38" x 44", 24" x 30". Limited edition. Series of 12 Courtesy the artist and Gebert Contemporary
Federico
Print Sizes 44″ x 55″, 38″ x 44″, 24″ x 30″. Limited edition. Series of 12
Courtesy the artist and Gebert Contemporary
Los Arquitos #2 Print Sizes 44" x 55", 38" x 44", 24" x 30". Limited edition. Series of 12 Courtesy the artist and Gebert Contemporary
Los Arquitos #2
Print Sizes 44″ x 55″, 38″ x 44″, 24″ x 30″. Limited edition. Series of 12
Courtesy the artist and Gebert Contempora

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


INTERVIEW de WERNER SEGARRA par Beatrice Chassepot  (eng version)

Beatrice Chassepot: Can you explain to our readers who are those Vaqueros you shoot?

Werner SEGARRA: These Vaqueros are from Huásabas, a small town in Sonora (Mexico). Some of them are friends of mine, others are just people from the place. Huásabas is a particular place, located in the middle of the Sierra Madre.  This is a vast desert, yet fertile and luscious. It is not the typical Mexican postcard. Distance and a relative isolation from the fast pace of modern places imprint a sense of ?good old times? to it. People are restrained, controlled, friendly and very welcoming to outsiders.

B.Ch.: Why do you want to shoot ?your? Vaqueros and the place they live and work?

Werner SEGARRA: I have a particular friendship and familiarity with Huásabas and its people that dates back to my high school years. There was a summer program that would send students either to Mexico, New Mexico or to a Native-American Reservation.  The goal was to spend two weeks with a family and then write a term paper.  I was reluctant to go because I was told I would be working at a gas station, and I simply couldn’t envision myself changing tires. It turned out that my host family owned the gas station; but they also owned horses, cattle and had nine kids all around my age (I was fourteen then).  Since the moment I arrived, they have treated me like family, and they are family to me.  One hour after meeting them I was already riding horses bare back. And it was not only “fun”: I was assigned cowboy tasks since the very first minute there. Four days later the father of the family invited me to pick out a horse that would become my horse for whenever I visited. The rest is history: I returned every year after that, and I literally became one more kid of the family. I have never been an outsider with a camera, neither have I felt that way.

This closeness has allowed photographing their everyday life and work. I started shooting as an amateur, as a young guy who felt very comfortable around them. I felt in love with their life style and routines. I photograph them because I would love to be one of them, and I wish I were willing to trade my easy life for what seems to me a more exciting world.

B.Ch.: Their hands are large, strong and essential and you show them almost every time. Can you explain?

Werner SEGARRA: I am not deliberately shooting the hands ; they stand out on their own. They reflect the years of work they put into working in the ranchos and taking care of the cattle and the fields. They certainly add to the strength of the photograph, and tell stories on their own.

B.Ch.: It is rare you shoot people together. You show them one by one. Why?

Werner SEGARRA: I shoot them where they are most comfortable, in their own space. I try to add an architectural feel to it in terms of location, to convey to the viewer a sense of being in the photograph.  I’ve been developing this particular style for the last six years; I feel it characterizes my own approach to photography. Likewise, this kind of composition provides the viewer the possibility to delve into the photo. Even though their houses are naturally minimalist, there is always something for the eye to explore that brings the past of the subject into the present of the viewer. After all, each photograph comes to represent not a moment but a life cycle; each one of them encompasses a story that comes clear to the eye of viewer.

B.Ch.: The light is very important in your photographs. Is there a special time during the day you like to take your photographs?

Werner SEGARRA: The light is as important as the subject and location of the photograph.  I shoot natural light for this series of Vaqueros de la Cruz del Diablo so that the images turn out as faithfully as possible to the setting. There is no special time of the day for shooting since I have to capture the images at the moment they occur. Over the years I’ve learned how to take advantage of natural light for this style of photography.

 

B.Ch.: Your photographs are never too “arty” and never too “documentary style”, how do you do to keep the balance?

Werner SEGARRA: I began photographing Huásabas 20 years ago and my take has changed over time. I used to shoot in a documentary way. As I was evolving as a photographer, it became clear to me that I needed to find my own particular style. I want to show the realism of what I’m photographing but, at the same time, not make it look too documentary. For me, it’s important to keep the feeling of the photography very raw, so that the subject matter and images speak for themselves.

My relationship with the people from the place also influences my approach.  Beyond merely capturing images, I want to portray the existing trust among us.  There have been changes in Huásabas over time, but those changes are neither dramatic nor fast. This is a community not defined by material possessions as it happens elsewhere. Respect, trust, knowledge of the trade, and pride of the lifestyle are terms that better define who they are.  This is reflected in the photographs, adding strength and beauty to the images. It’s not merely photographing the place and people, but also about our long history of sharing and living together. It is very difficult to accurately describe a place through any art medium, but the years of knowing the place, working and editing the material have allowed me to show a glimpse of this place, an insight into the character of the town and its people, not just a documentation of it.

B.Ch.: Some words come to my mind when I look at your series: Authenticity, Work, Respect, Male, Rustic, Pure Air and Wide. Do you have some more or do you want to erase some? What is your comment?

Werner SEGARRA: I would add Rawness, Simplicity, Nature, History, Family, Warmth, and Harshness.  I am not sure I am looking for ?authenticity? because that is such a complex and exoticizing word.  I do think this is a very masculine world, which does not mean women are excluded.  On the contrary, the role they play in Huásabas is pivotal to make the town as special as it is, at least to me.

B.Ch.: Who is your favorite photographer?

Werner SEGARRA: Among my favorite photographers I can mention Sebastião Salgado, Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, Minor White, Patrick Demarchelier, Helmut Newton, and Richard Avedon.

February 5th 2011

 

La Mesa Courtesy the artist and Gebert Contemporary
La Mesa
Courtesy the artist and Gebert Contemporary

 

 

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