Interview with Cristóbal Hara

After the publication of the first two notebooks of The trivial essays by Cristóbal Hara (Ediciones Anómalas), Israel Ariño interviews the author.

One of the things I like best about The trivial essays is the nearly aphoristic quality of the first two notebooks. I would say that both Hide and Seek and Archipelago attempt to poise questions, approach the photographic language in a way that is more categorical than in previous editorial projects. It’s as if you were teaching us to read or re-read images; the proposal is almost like playing a game, while at the same time it becomes intriguing. Could you tell us in a few words how you started to work on this project and how the idea was born?

Basically two things came together. On the one hand, I’ve been doing photographic exercises as practice for ages. At first I was looking for a way of controlling the backgrounds. Problems with the backgrounds were the most common reason why my images didn’t work for me. Then, I tried to interiorize the language of the pure image, which had to do with the camera and was non-verbal, by doing some more exercises. I also approached color, structure, etc. Whatever I learned from that work, I used in my books. I was even able to include some of the images. On the other hand, when Gonzalo Romero came up with the proposal of making a book with Siete de un golpe, I thought that he meant something like a craftman’s book with a rather reduced print run. And I also thought that the material in Archipelago would be appropriate for it. At a given moment, I told him that I had material to make several of those books, so we gave form to the idea of starting a small collection. The process was interrupted by the disappearance of Siete, but when Ediciones Anómalas showed interest in the project, we continued working on it together until reaching the present state.

The essays have been published without any kind of accompanying text. This makes me think that these photographs need no explanation and that maybe they are self-explaining. What is required to tackle the reading of these essays?

Ha ha. Your question reminds me of my experience with Lacan. In the early 1970´s the young Spanish painters used to say that to paint (and to understand their paintings) it was a must to have read Lacan. Well, I started to read Lacan, but that was unbearable. I asked my friends for some explanation or a summary of the main ideas. But they put me off and didn’t provide me with any information. Finally, in London I found a book entitled “Lacan for beginners“ which was part of a collection where the ideas of the great thinkers were put forth through vignettes, like in comics. That was how I got my Lacan orientation, and certainly there were some very interesting points. I subsequently bought some of those books, so one could say that my culture comes from comics, (laughter). No, “to tackle the reading of these essays”, as you say, it isn’t necessary to have read Lacan, Adorno or Derrida. You just have to be a photographer. Now, to be honest, I know a great many people who dedicate themselves to photography but I actually know few real photographers.

I am part of a generation of photographers who have discovered your work in book format rather than in a print displayed on a wall. How important are books as support for your work?

The book is the goal, the place where the images are used and where they have to respond to their origins and to be up to par with them. Exhibits, especially the big ones, really interrupt my work. However, I have to say that, I have sometimes enjoyed exhibits when they were small and offer the appropriate conditions. Ideally, exhibits and books should complement each other, even though I am more interested in books.

The trivial essays is the generic title of this work of yours, which as far as we know, is made up of different notebooks. Can you tell us something else about the upcoming essays?

The idea is to publish from 7 to 10 essays. The collection is designed for a maximum of ten titles. There is a new issue I find quite interesting: to what extent can photoshop be used in documentary photography? The next essay will probably be about that. I’m also working on several other essays. At any rate it’s better to do than to talk.

You have published some of your projects with Steidl; What was it like working with a small publishing house such as Ediciones Anómalas?

I prefer working with small publishing houses. I have never published a personal book with a publishing house where I wasn’t able to control the whole process. The size of the publishing house is not what is important; What matters is that they know about books and help the author to put together the best possible book. And Steidl is not your typical big publishing house either. It has not been set up to make money with books but to publish books that are exceptionally well produced without dying in the attempt. Steidl provides the means to produce the book in the best possible way, regardless of cost and without taking into account how much money is going to get lost in the process. The disadvantage is that to finance all this Steidl has to do a lot of work for the fashion world, institutions, museums, etc. Everything has to go through its own print shop, which is at work day and night. The waiting periods until you can make your book are sometimes endless and hard to put up with. With Anómalas I’ve been able to work on the project in my own way and together with the collaborators I have myself chosen. One couldn’t ask for more. In this case, the disadvantage is that a small publishing house has to make a big promotional effort, so I had to commit myself to writing texts, giving interviews like this one, making presentations, etc. I hope I don’t have to do this for each new title in the collection. (laughter).

It can’t be denied that the books that have been published by the big companies get better exposure and produce a greater impact, but all of this is changing with the Internet and with the new distribution channels. In the end, good books end up having their own life no matter who has published them.




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