GERARDO VIZMANOS, EXPLORING IDENTITY THROUGH DANCING BODIES

Still, face-less contorted bodies that hold a position for so long that they appear to be moving, almost dancing when photographed. This is what Gerardo Vizmanos depicts through his vulnerable yet powerful images. At first glance, all of these elements seem simple and maybe even repetitive when you think of the number of pictures he must have taken throughout his career, but he somehow manages to convey a whole gamut of different emotions through just one single picture. And that is no easy feat. Who knew this once-successful International Law practitioner would eventually earn a living by exploring the concept of identity through photographing foreign bodies so beautifully? We talk about this unexpected turn in his life and so much more in this interview.

Why did you decide to switch fields from being a lawyer to a photographer? Knowing that you already had a stable and successful career, wasn’t it daunting to work in the creative arts?

I guess after many years of international law practice, my curiosity was stronger towards photography than to law practice stability. I didn't have a plan; it was all the outcome of unplanned events. I was taking photos and studying photography, not planning to jump into this career until I won a scholarship to study at the School of Visual Arts in New York at the International Support Competition in Italy. Having an international jury gives me such recognition made me think about what I wanted to pursue in the future. It was not an easy decision because jumping out from stability is never an easy decision to make, but I knew what I wanted and that’s where I am now.

Much of your work focuses on portraying contorted naked male bodies, or at least masculine-presenting ones, however, these rarely show their faces. What is it that you find interesting in stripping away the identities or most recognisable features from models?

I use the body of the subjects I photograph as a platform to explore my own ideas and experiences. I think that being is the product of a process made through the means of an existence we perceive. The bodies I photograph are the existence I take to research on my own idea of being. In some way, the work is more about me than about their identities. It’s neither my intent to strip away their identity nor to focus on that, but I intend to focus on mine and because of this I don’t need to focus on the faces as much as I do on the bodies.

Many people have declared your work to be homoerotic, but you seem to disagree with that, as you have stated that you avoid hypersexualization. Why do you think people still see it that way?

Desire and eroticism are part of my work, but they’re not the only elements nor the most distinctive ones. I don’t think arousing sexual desire is part of my work or my aim. I feel that my work could be better classified as body or male body photography than as homoerotic. But I’m happy that the viewers of my work can find elements of their own eroticism arising out of my images. I understand that the image of a nice nude body can trigger that and I think that that’s a beautiful thing, but I don’t necessarily need to have the same perspective.

You believe that gender is just a social construction and you’ve made a point in saying that your subjects are gender-neutral, rather than male. Why do you feel the need to make this clarification?

I need to clarify this because I’m often asked about this. I was surprised when I got questioned about my photography in relation to gender. I don’t see that in my work. I think gender is a complex, social construction and I see that it has a great impact on personal identities, particularly when there is any type of conflict between the social and the personal construction but I don’t see in which part of my work this is visible apart from the fact that most of the subjects I photograph are male.

Each time you hold your camera and are about to take a picture, what do you expect to depict?

I expect to depict my emotions. That’s what matters the most to me. I always think of how the subject is connected to my emotions and how what the subject means to me is connected to these emotions. Every person, every situation is different and I’m not in the same mood and going through the same circumstances every day. That’s what makes every shooting interesting.

As you like to capture movement or at least still bodies that can hold a particular action, you like photographing dancers, but not only that, I’ve also seen you depict wrestlers. They belong to two very different disciplines and sports, what do you find of interest in both?

My interest is in photographing people who become themselves by the practice of something I can name as “body training”. Dancers, acrobats, gymnastics and today most professional sports practitioners require a life-long commitment. They start at a very early age and they are not just professionals doing a job, they become what they do, and their being is the outcome of an action. That’s what catches my interest the most. I admire what they do and I’m really fascinated by them.

You’ve also started to incorporate new elements such as landscapes, portraits or objects. Why have you decided to change subjects in your body of work? Are these supposed to go along your body pictures or are they separate from those?

Yes, I have noticed that. I’m incorporating new elements that will help me go deeper into my own ideas. By connecting images of bodies to other images that are meaningful to me, I can explore other readings of the images. I’m still exploring but I see both elements together and not necessarily separated.

You’re working on a project called Acro, which depicts the trust acrobats have towards their environment as well as their sense of harmony versus rivalry when it comes to competing. What is it that initially attracted you to this subject matter?

I think it was almost inevitable for me to work with acrobats. The way I work with bodies is very good for acrobats. I have worked with some acrobats in USA, Canada and Europe and I found a list of new topics relating to acrobatics that called my attention. Trust is an important part of their performance. Trust in their partners, trust in themselves and trust in thinking that all will be OK. It’s an important life lesson. In the end, working in the creative arts is a bit acrobatic, we have to trust on many things to keep going.

What exactly do you want us to take from your work?

An emotion. I will be happy if I’m able to connect with people in a way that is similar to how I want to express myself. Often people write to me to tell me what they feel about my photography with no other purpose but to share what they felt. That's a great part of the work. If I’m able to inspire anything to someone then the work and effort are worth it.

What does the future hold for you? Do you have anything you want to share with us?

I have lots of plans for the immediate future. In the next month’s I’ll be based in London working more often in Europe and I hope I can soon show something new come out of this. It’s a bit early now. In the short-term, I hope I’ll be able to confirm some shows and I’m working on a new publication I will release this fall-winter.