For our sixth interview, we sit down with Spanish photographer and educator Alejandra Carles-Tolra. Carles-Tolra's work has been exhibited in the United States, across Europe and most recently, in China. She has produced projects on a wide variety of topics but always with a sociological eye. Read on for insight into her background, inspirations and work process today—
BtF: How did you begin your work in photography? Was there a "decisive moment" when you knew it was a special medium for you, when you felt truly committed to it?
ACT: I’ve always been interested in photography, but it wasn’t until my third year at university when I decided to really commit myself to the medium. At the time, I was studying sociology in Barcelona and I started feeling like the academic language I was using to explore my interests wasn’t quite right for me.
Trapped (Barcelona, Spain)
I was lucky at that time that I came across a couple of professors who allowed me to start using a visual language to explore and document the communities I was studying. After I graduated, since photography had already become my main focus , I decided to continue making work with the medium, leading me to where I am today.
BtF: When you were beginning photography, were there any people, artists, books, films that served as essential inspirations? How about now—any sources of creativity you discovered recently that give you that jolt of "beginner's" passion?
ACT: One of the first photography books that truly inspired me was “The Family of Man,” the catalogue based on the photography exhibition curated by MoMA’s photo director at the time, Edward Steichen. It was the first time I truly understood how universal photography is as a language, as well as grasping the power that images have over words.
In addition, when I was starting as a portrait photographer, the work of Diane Arbus, August Sander, Dorothea Lange, and Alessandra Sanguinetti really inspired me. Some of my other influences, outside of the medium, are writer Junot Diaz, artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and filmmaker Pedro Almodovar.
Walk Along (Dubai, UAE)
BtF: Cartier-Bresson famously said, "Your first 10,000 shots are your worst." Can you share a humbling moment that happened to you recently with regards to your photography? A moment when you realized, like all of us, that there's always much more to learn?
ACT: I think that happens every time I start working on a new body of work! I always feel very optimistic with the first photographs I take. At the beginning, it’s all very new and exciting but a couple of days later—sometimes months, if I'm lucky—I am back in my studio and facing the realization that I am not interested in my pictures. I have a feeling like I just want to start all over again.
—Alejandra Carles-Tolra, interviewed by behindthefra.me
Editor's note: Carles-Tolra's work is available now in our inaugural themed sale, "Always a Beginner."