Adrián Fernández will be a visiting scholar at Tisch this fall. He teaches Photography: On Location in Havana in the spring semester. In this interview, Adrián shares his creative process and what students should expect from the semester in Cuba.
What drives your creative vision as a photographer?
I pursue images that bring questioning to an audience, that are suggestive further than visual experience only. My photographs are means of dialogue with a certain context, object, aesthetic or concept. Studio photography has brought great opportunities for several of my series as I can control every detail about the final image. In my case that’s important, I like to create an image, to build it from the ground up, leaving few spaces to causality. I plan myself before I photograph; I sketch and write about some of my ideas and how can they be produce, afterwords the image is a result of all the previous work. I get inspired by films, advertising photography, art history in general but above all things I get inspired by things that happen in the everyday life, and most accurately, by Cuba. I find my roots to be deeply adhere to my country and most of my inspiration comes from there, although my photographs at some point don’t have a sign that says MADE IN CUBA, by the contrary. When photographing I aim for wider meanings and ideas that can exist within the image and that enables its life once it’s out there far from its original context and from the artist that produced it. A good photograph has enough autonomy to have a life of her own.
Do you have a particular style of photography?
Every project I undertake demands its own way of photographing. I always look for the most effective way of photographing for each series, that, not necessarily needs to look similar than the previous one. Each series has to offer me a new challenge somehow, otherwise it is to boring if I end up using the same method I used last time. Each series has a time of research in which I define every aspect about the image. Once I settle that, then comes the production moment, when I exploit the entire workflow getting results and accumulating enough work to edit afterword. When I feel I’m repeating myself with the same formula, then that’s the moments I stop and move on with something else.
Cuba is certainly a unique place. What makes it unique from an artist’s perspective?
I agree, is definitely a unique place!!! From my perspective it’s the mixture of cultures, races, tradition, language and idiosyncrasy what makes it so rich and open. I’m not talking about blue beaches and palm trees and old American cars in the streets of Old Havana. That’s definitely a part, which those of you who decide to come to Cuba will see, enjoy and get tired of too. I’m talking about the people, about how they drive themselves, about how Cuban society works on a daily basis. I’m talking about walking a lot and seeing and experiencing first hand. It’s a complex context that escapes a tourist’s shallow eyes, but when observing closer, a much deeper Cuba reveals.
What do you hope students in the Tisch Cuba program capture with their lens?
What I always request of my students as our program begins in Havana is that they get rid of every previous assumption of how they thought Cuba and Havana would be like (because it’s not). They must be open minded and be willing to immerse into Havana’s daily life, meeting
persons in the street, going to shows, fairs, taking the buses etc…all of that will give them a firsthand experience that nobody can change or interfere with. Then, their photographic work has to be a result of that experience and their thoughts about it.
What will students take away from spending a semester in Cuba?
Each of them will have a different experience by the time the programs ends. Regardless of their personal feelings by the time of their departure (some of them will love to stay 3 more months, others not so much), to have been in Havana, Cuba for three months it’s today an invaluable opportunity as they are accessing a much discussed and criticized country to which (yet) not so many students (Americans) access, so it preserves the unknown’s exotic patina. They’ll acquire extended knowledge in Cuban arts and culture as well as society all through the hands of field professional of the art from the Ludwig Foundation and Havana University which will be your main host institutions from the Cuban side.
Photographer Adrián Fernández studied at the Superior Institute of Art and at the San Alejandro Academy of Fine Arts. His solo work has been exhibited in Cuba and the United States, including the Houston Center for Photography in Houston, Texas, and the Center for the Development of Visual Arts and the Juan David Gallery at the Yara Movie Theatre Cultural Center, both in Havana, Cuba.
Read his full bio and visit his website.
The application deadline for the spring 2015 program Photography on Location: Havana is October 1. Learn more and apply.