Alberto Calva: Photographer
Tell me a little bit about yourself (Introduce yourself).
Born in Mexico City living in Miami… or Chilango immigrant at the US. Dad of a 5 year old Mexican-American boy, Bruno. I make ads for a living and enjoy doing them, I’m a copywriter and creative director at Alma. I studied Literature and Art Photography. I’ve worked at a newspaper, a TV channel, magazines and even a burger joint.
Tell me something interesting about yourself.
I speak some German (Jawohl!). I played Jai-Alai when I was a teen. Some of my photos are part of the Autonomous Mexican University art collection. I have thousands of film slides I brought little by little from CDMX, wishing to do something with all that material at one point. I finally made a big digital art project with my wife and a great friend who is an editor where we used the slides as GIF’s and then a text guides you through different paths as you click hyperlinks. Check it out: parpadeas.com.
How did you get into photography?
When a I was a teen a dear friend at school gave me an extra Pentax film camera he had. I just started walking and commuting everywhere with it. CDMX is a big city, so the camera became a great companion to look into things closely… plus did I mention it was film? Well, it made me look into things closely and think twice if I wanted to take the picture. I began training my eye and becoming more technical little by little that way. Film was expensive for a teen in CDMX. Later on, when I got my first job and was able to pay for my own classes, I started to take art photo classes at a private art school. I started to develop and print and that old school cool shit. Then I took several classes at Centro de la Imagen and was selected to be part of the Seminar of Contemporary Art Photography program. (there I started to really appreciate photo theory and photo as contemporary).
What is it you love most about it?
Just doing it. No sé. La verdad como que simpre tener cerca la cámara y llevarla a todos lados. Te hace ver las cosas distinto. Ver por lo tanto la vida distinto. Es una ventanita.
Does being Hispanic influence your work at all?
Siento que sí. No tanto en el resultado si no en los hábitos. Caminar y caminar con la cámara como lo hacía de chico. Recomponer cosas que tenía a la mano. Acomodar los objetos urganos, etc. La ciudad de México seguro me marcó en la forma de encarar la foto. La grietas, los perro callejeros, los transportes, la luces de los puestos ambulantes, los objetos urbanos, la basura, lo abandonado, las azoteas los colores, la gente en su contexto… siempre puedes encontrar belleza en ese caos. Es como una promesa de la foto, si la tratas bien.
Who/what has inspired you the most in what you do?
Lots of things and people, it would be long long list. But to sum up, I will put the most relevant: Teachers. Official and unofficial. From friends in the teenager years where you can see yourself projected and you discover that art is a possibility, to teachers in Photo institutions (to name a few Mexican artist who where my teachers: Mauricio Alejo, Gerardo Montiel, Gerardo Sutter). But also every time I go to a photo exhibition I truly get inspired and excited (like a kid that discovers something for the first time). I think a good photo exhibition shows you the grandiosity and importance of a photo author. (To name a few authors and exhibitions I truly enjoyed: Thomas Ruff, Andreas Gursky, Mauel Álvarez Bravo. Metinides, Magnum Photo in color, any Mexican photo biennale, etc)
What’s your process like?
I think I don’t really have a process. Just as I mentioned above, since I got my first camera I just try to bring it with me everywhere I go, walk and commute. Eventually the series or themes will emerge. Then I plan a series if necessary. Doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes they’re just photos that are not connected between each other at the first look. Then through editing you connect the dots and suddenly you have a sequence…
How did this COVID Trash series come about?
Here again just by walking. During the sanity walks on quarantine I brought my camera. I encounter discarded gloves and masks in the street. Disgusting. A new kind of trash. I started photographing them more like a denouncing act rather than an original art project. It’s important to bring attention to this problem. I see other people documenting this problem everywhere. I’m glad. Hopefully my pictures have a bit of that contradicting beauty of something chaotic and disgusting.
Any words of wisdom for young photographers?
Just keep taking pictures every day. Try to edit and re edit, reorganize all the pictures, discard, start again. You’ll eventually find the themes, the order or stories behind it all. Try to go to analogue medium so you can really grasp what the idea and nature of photography. It will educate your eye, and it will open your mind to the technical and philosophical side of photography.