In conversation with Luis Lazo
I was born in Chile, raised in England then moved to France where I lived for nine years, and I am currently living between the United States and Barcelona, Spain. I do some freelance work, mainly shooting for small label clients that appreciate my style of photography. Most of my time, though, is spent working on my personal projects which are then exhibited by the various galleries that I work with.
Tell us about your journey to photography.
I left school at sixteen and worked a few dead-end jobs. I was looking for a creative outlet when a friend bought a camera and asked me to take some photographs of him. It immediately felt like something I could do; the camera felt very at home in my hands, even though I had no clue how to operate the various dials – and this was before digital cameras.
So I went back to school and studied photography and art history. Following my degree, I had a couple of lucky breaks – a feature in the British Journal of Photography, winning the AGFA Portrait of the Year award and landing an assisting job with Jill Furmanovsky; a prominent portrait and rock photographer at the time.
Following this, I began to work with stills on feature films which was a wonderful experience. I learnt so much about performance working with people like Sir Ben Kingsley and Emma Thompson and, of course, all about lighting. From there I moved into editorial portraits and eventually fashion, always looking for a way to explore and develop my personal ideas.
What kind of art are you interested in?
I’m interested in all types of art practice, from dance to sculpture, cinema, poetry or music. Any form that allows people to express themselves. I feel that it is so important for people to be able to find a way to express themselves, whether it is relaying something extremely personal or creating fantastical images and worlds for us to wonder at.
Let’s talk about your project There, Over the Horizon.
I was forced to leave Chile when I was seven years old following a military coup. As a refugee in Britain, I lost a great part of my connection to my country of birth.
Nearly ten years later I went back there to visit relatives, but I still felt a large void – a lack of connection. The landscape has always been a big source of pride for Chileans, from the volcanos of the Andes to the deserts in the north and the glaciers in the south. It is also the main theme of the national anthem, and so visiting and connecting with the landscape felt like a natural way to find a way home.
A lot of landscape work is about reconnecting, whether personally or otherwise. Do you feel that re-connected with the land now that the project is done, or perhaps forged a new connection?
This project was all about reconnecting. The Atacama desert seemed like the best place to begin with as it was completely out of my comfort zone. I had never photographed landscapes before, never mind in a place as inhospitable as that.
I walked with bare feet on the dry, barren earth and swam in the freshwater pools, explored salt caves and watched the multitudes of stars at night. It was as much a physical experience as an artistic one, and I attempted to edit and present the images in such a way that it feels like a journey.
Were there any moments while working on the project that stand out to you now?
I guess the most telling moment was when I crashed the car I’d hired into a water bank. It was 4.30am, and I was travelling to the El Tatio geysers before sunrise. The car was stuck, but after wading through the water I managed to navigate a way out. The car was pretty badly damaged and I was barely halfway to my destination. I didn’t think the car could make it all the way up the mountain, never mind getting back into town.
So, in the middle of nowhere, in the pitch dark, I had a choice: try and get back and get the car fixed, or continue on my way and risk being totally stranded.
I chose to go on, and it was the highlight of my trip. The whole place was so mystical, even spiritual. The slow journey back into the small town was equally as wonderful – everything that had been hidden by the darkness on the way there was clearly and spectacularly revealed on the way back.
What are you working on next?
I’m showing a new series at Art Basel Miami, with Robert Fontaine Gallery. Then working on a presentation for Art Deal Project in Barcelona later this year.
What are you recommending?
It may be a little strange, but the British TV series Fleabag. It is so beautifully written and performed, funny and melancholy at the same time. It seems to touch a certain rawness in me.
Finally, tell us about a piece of art that has influenced you.
If I have to choose only one, it would have to be the book The Lines of My Hand by Robert Frank. I first came across it at university and I found it so poetic. Dark and light, poignant and reflective. The editing and layout make it feel as if the photographs are talking to each other and communicating directly to the soul.