Mexico Notebook: Q&A with Ana Ayarzagoitia

© Ana Ayarzagoitia

Hannah Frieser
Jaime Permuth and I are collaborating to explore contemporary photography in Mexico. We're looking at trends and how they relate to traditions; events, institutions and venues; as well as pursuing conversations with curators, academics, gallerists and photographers on what's happening currently. This collaborative project will feature a variety of types of posts including interviews, book reviews, published letters, portfolios of images and more.

Hannah Frieser is a curator, photographer and book artist and former Executive Director of Light Work. Jaime Permuth is a Guatemalan photographer living and working in New York City and a Faculty Member at the School of Visual Arts.

We have been collaborating with the photographer Alejandro Cartagena as part of this project. Cartagena has overseen and executed a series of short interviews with photographers from Mexico and today we continue this series with an interview of Ana Ayarzagoitia by Cartagena. This is the last of the Mexico Notebook posts.

Other posts in this series include:
Interview with Adam Wiseman
Q&A with Luis Mercado
Q&A with Ray Govea
Interview with Ramón Jiménez Cuén
Interview with Laurence Salzmann
Interview with Diego Berruecos
Interview with Mariela Sancari
Q&A with Eduardo Jiménez Román
Q&A with Claudia Arechiga
Q&A with Nahatan Navarro
Contemporary Photography in Oaxaca
Q&A with Aglae Cortés
Q&A with Maria José Sesma
Interview with César Rodríguez
Q&A with Nora Gómez
Q&A with Melba Arellano
Q&A with Jorge Taboada

© Ana Ayarzagoitia

This interview is presented first in an English translation by Nataly Castaño, then followed by the Spanish original.

Alejandro Cartagena: Where do you live and what you do?

Ana Ayarzagoitia
: I live in Monterrey, Mexico and dedicate myself to the study of photography. Currently I study photography at the LCI .

AC: How did you get started in photography?

AA: Photography is a discipline that I have explored long before I knew that it existed as a profession.

I was 10-years-old when I grabbed the ordinary point and shoot 35mm camera that my parents had to take pictures at family meals, birthdays, holidays, days at high school, etc.

© Ana Ayarzagoitia

AC: When and what made you start considering producing photographic work to explore your personal concerns?

AA: A couple of years ago I finished a relationship with a boyfriend and the sadness that I felt at that moment caused me to search for refuge in photography. I got obsessed with it, searching to kill the boredom of life, that I was taking photographs all the time and I forgot myself completely in it. This thing that had been accompanying me all my life served at that time to explain me to myself, everything that I could not put into words, and it helped get out the emotions that absorbed me at that time.

Over time I realized that photography served me as a way to record that gray cloud passing. It showed me that the past stayed in the past, and yet these pictures hold the sadness, the negative thoughts and they will always be there to remind me of that place - between heaven and hell - where I was. I can say that photography helped me heal and this has been the best training I have had in this path. From my point of view that's the virtue that the arts have, in my case photography.

Currently I see my artistic process from another perspective, and I have made more conscious several concepts that have been working with such as intimacy, family conflicts that exist in all households and people who do not conform to social and cultural patterns.

© Ana Ayarzagoitia

AC: Tell us about some of your projects and the themes you approach through the images we are presenting.

AA: This series is called "Date-Break, 2013." It has been one of the series on which I have worked the most. It has worn me out physically and emotionally to the point of understanding what that it entails to be an artist and get to the bottom of the subject in order to get past it completely free. It interested me to make a record of intimacy from a trip to Greece I did with my ex-boyfriend. In them one can see a process of self-destruction and it ends with an image that, in my opinion, embodies the frustration, sadness and delusion that I felt at that moment. That second it became a duel, it meant on one side the end to an important stage in my life and, at the same time, a way to start over...from scratch.

AC: How do you think about the history of Mexican photography in your work?

AA: I am no expert on the subject, but I'm interested to know and see what occurs nationally. My exploration has been very personal and although there are references present inherently in my work, they are not obvious or fundamental to it.

© Ana Ayarzagoitia

AC: Do you believe that there is any relationship in subject matter, form or any other aspect between photography in Mexico and the rest of Latin America?

AA: Yes, of course we are historically connected and live in similar conditions and share both political and social issues. We come from very similar contexts. That, somehow, has to influence artistic production. Especially now, thanks to social networks, we are aware of what is happening in different countries and we all join in each other's struggles. In the end we are brothers.

AC: What are the issues being addressed both in contemporary photography in Mexico and outside of Mexico that interest you?

AA: Artistic proposals that through their work manage to give a framework to, or take apart the framework of, their personal conflicts.  I appreciate and admire many projects that talk about social problems or that show crude realities, artists that take on the theme of the insecurity that currently exists and also landscape photographers.

© Ana Ayarzagoitia

AC: What do you feel benefits you or is a problem with being based in Mexico?

AA: I do not feel that it benefits me or creates any particular problems. There are so many things that interest me about my country.

When I travel outside Mexico, I always find new inspirations in other cultures that enrich me greatly and there is always something new to explore, do and enjoy.

AC: Anything you'd like to say about contemporary photography in general?

AA: I love it. I am excited to see and know about proposals from emerging artists, their new forms and ideas about how to approach individual themes. The proposals that also don't speak about photography from from itself but that turn photography into a medium to express ideas and concepts that go beyond the form.

© Ana Ayarzagoitia

Spanish original / Texto original en español

Alejandro Cartagena: ¿Dónde vives y a qué te dedicas?

Ana Ayarzagoitia: Vivo en Monterrey, México y me dedico a la fotografía. Actualmente estudio la carrera de fotografía en el LCI.

AC: ¿Cómo te iniciaste en la fotografía?

AA: La fotografía es una disciplina que he explorado desde mucho antes de saber que existía como profesión.

Tenia 10 años cuando agarraba la cámara "point and shoot" de 35mm común y corriente que mis papas tenían para tomar fotos en las comidas familiares, cumpleaños, vacaciones, días de colegio, etc.

AC: ¿Cuándo y que te hizo empezar a considerar producir trabajo fotográfico que explorara tus inquietudes personales?

AA: Hace un par de años termine una relación con un novio y la tristeza que sentí en ese momento, me llevo a refugiarme en la fotografía. Me obsesione tanto, buscando matar el hastío de la vida, que estaba haciendo fotos todo el tiempo y me olvide por completo de mí. Esta cosa que me había estado acompañando toda mi vida y que en ese momento me sirvió para  explicarme a mí misma todo lo que no podía decir con palabras y sacar los sentimientos que me absorbían.

Con el tiempo me di cuenta que la fotografía me sirvió para registrar esa nube gris que pasa, me mostro que el pasado quedo en el pasado y, sin embargo, en esas imágenes se guardan las tristezas, pensamientos negativos, siempre estarán ahí para recordarme ese lugar -entre el cielo y el infierno- en el que estuve. Puedo decir que la fotografía me ayudo a sanar y este ha sido el mejor aprendizaje que he tenido en este trayecto. Desde mi punto de vista esa es la virtud que tienen las artes, en mi caso particular la fotografía.

Actualmente veo mi proceso artístico desde otra perspectiva, e hice conscientes varios conceptos que he venido manejando como  la intimidad, retos familiares que existen en todas los hogares, personas que no se conforman a los esquemas sociales y paisaje.

© Ana Ayarzagoitia

AC: Platícanos un poco de tus proyectos y los temas que abordas en las imágenes que estamos presentando.

AA: Esta serie se llama date-break, 2013. Ha sido una de las series en las cuales he trabajado mas, me ha desgastado física y emocionalmente hasta el punto de entender lo que conlleva el asumirse como artista y meterse hasta el fondo del asunto para poder salir bien librado. Me interesaba hacer un registro de mi intimidad en un viaje que hice con mi exnovio a Grecia. En ellas se puede observar un proceso de autodestrucción y concluye con una imagen que, a mi parecer, encierra la frustración, tristeza y desilusión que sentí en ese instante. Ese segundo se convirtió en un duelo, por una parte significaba cerrar una etapa importante en mi vida y al mismo tiempo, una forma de empezar otra...desde cero.

AC: ¿De qué manera consideras la historia de la fotografía Mexicana en tu obra?

AA: No soy experta en el tema, pero me interesa conocer y ver lo que se produce a nivel nacional. Mi exploración ha sido muy personal y aunque los referentes están presentes de una manera inherente, no son evidentes ni fundamentales en mi obra.

© Ana Ayarzagoitia

AC: ¿Encuentras alguna relación de temas, forma o cualquier otro aspecto entre la fotografía en México y la del resto de America Latina?

AA: Si, por supuesto históricamente estamos conectados y vivimos en condiciones similares y compartimos problemáticas tanto políticas como sociales. Venimos de contextos muy parecidos, eso de alguna forma tiene que influenciar la producción artística, sobre todo ahora que gracias a las redes sociales, estamos al tanto de lo que sucede en diferentes países y nos unimos a las luchas de todos, al final somos hermanos.

AC: ¿Cuáles son los temas qué están siendo tratados en la fotografía contemporánea en México y también afuera de México que te interesen?

AA: Me interesan mucho las propuestas de artistas que por medio de su obra logran desentramar o entramar más sus conflictos personales.  Aprecio y admiro mucho proyectos que hablan de problemáticas sociales o que muestren realidades crudas, artistas que tocan los temas de inseguridad que existen actualmente, y los paisajistas.

© Ana Ayarzagoitia

AC: ¿Qué sientes te beneficia o problematiza producir desde México?

AA: No siento que tenga ningún conflicto trabajar dentro y fuera de México. Son demasiadas las cosas que me interesan de mi país.

Cuando salgo de México siempre encuentro  nuevas inspiraciones las diferentes culturas me enriquecen mucho y siempre hay algo nuevo que explorar, trabajar y gozar.

AC: ¿Algo que quisieras comentar sobre la fotografía contemporánea en general?

AA: Me encanta. Me entusiasma ver y conocer propuestas de artistas emergentes, las nuevas formas e ideas de abordar cada tema. También las que no hablan de la fotografía desde el formato sino que se convierte en un medio para expresar ideas y conceptos que van más allá de la forma.

Alejandro Cartagena lives and works in Monterrey, Mexico. His projects employ landscape and portraiture as a means to examine social, urban and environmental issues in the Latin-American region.

His work has been exhibited internationally in festivals like CONTACT in Toronto, The FIF in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, GuatePhoto festival in Guatemala City, FOTOFEST in Houston and UNSEEN by FOAM in Amsterdam among others. Alejandro's work has been published internationally in magazines and newspapers such as Newsweek, Le Monde, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times Lens Blog, PDN, The New Yorker, and Wallpaper among others. His book Suburbia Mexicana was published by Photolucida and Daylight books in 2011.

He has received the Photolucida Critical Mass book award, the SNCA-CONACULTA grant for Mexican artists, the Premio IILA-Fotografia 2012 award in Rome, the Street Photography Award in London and a POYi reportage award of excellence, the Lente Latino award in Chile, the award Salon de la Fotografia from the Fototeca de Nuevo Leon in Mexico among other awards. He has been named a FOAM magazine Talent and one of PDN Magazine's 30 emerging photographers. He has also been a finalist for the Aperture Portfolio award, the Photoespaña Descubrimientos award, the FOAM Paul Huff award and has been nominated for the CENTER Santa Fe photography prize.

His work is in many private and public collections. He is currently represented by Circuit Gallery in Toronto, Kopeikin Gallery in Los Angeles and Galería Patricia Conde in Mexico City.