by Dieter Debruyne

Tell us about your approach to photography. How it all started? What are  your memories of your first shots?

Rafael Monzo (RM): My most sincere and innocent answer would be “thanks to my father”. He was passionate about photography and he collected magazines like “Objectif Photo” and “Camera”. With him, I discovered basic techniques of photography, famous photographers and the section of female nudes in the magazines! I got my first camera for my communion, a Kodak Instamatic with which I missed all the shots of the event. Later, I start borrowing my father’s camera, a 24x36 Mamiya 500 TTL that I still use today. With it, I photographed my immediate environment: my garden, my parents, my dog… all that was close to me, in a “testimonial” way.

How did your research evolve with respect to those early days?

RM: I started photography seriously when I entered at the photography school. It was 3 endless years but with the people I met there, we formed a nice group of friends! There, I discovered the darkroom and developed a real passion for black and white. The ability to control all the process, from negative film to enlargement, was a great exitement for me.

At 21 years old, I had my laboratory at home. We gathered there with my friends for endless nights, like painters in their attic. It was a time full of romanticism! At that time, I decided to become a photographer but it was simply my pleasure that guided my impulses, the pleasure of taking pictures.

© Rafael Monzo

© Rafael Monzo

What do you think about photography in the era of digital and social networking?

RM: To create means mastering a more or less difficult technique (and photography is a quite simple technique) and using this technique to achieve an exhilarating result for the senses: pleasures like capturing light, composing within live spaces and encounters, it’s the same for analogue or digital photography.
Social networks are wonderful tools to show works and results to a very large audience.

About your work now. How would you describe your personal research in  general?

RM: My research is based on my personal satisfaction. In a more metaphysical way, nostalgic as I am, I would say that it is also to “catch time”. But it is just an ascertainment, not the initial reason of my actions. I must add another pleasure, that of “communion” with landscapes that I shoot.

© Rafael Monzo
© Rafael Monzo

Do you have any preferences in terms of cameras  and format?

RM: For film photography, I have been working with the same cameras for 20 years (I am a romantic !): for 24x36, I use Nikon FM2, Mamiya 500 TTL, Leica CM. I always shoot with TMAX 400 KODAK. This film has an emulsion that is suitable for all types of situations. For medium format, I use Mamiya 645 or Fuji 6x9. At last, for digital photography, I use a Canon 5D MARKII.

Tell us about your latest project ‘Ufologie’ 

RM: My latest project is called ‘Ufologie’. Last year, I had an accident and I was immobilized for more than 6 months. During this convalescence, I decided to digitally manipulate old photos and transform them into something artistic. ‘Ufologie’ was born of my inability to move and, despite that, of my desire to travel mentally through space by creating some kind of recycled flying objects.

© Rafael Monzo

I notice you combine or mirror two pictures to make one image; what’s the advantage for you and is not ‘just’ a technique to make something interesting?

RM: I used the symmetry differently in two projects. To ‘Monochromes’ series, I was interested in the creative act of a new landscape based on their symmetry. In this series the two works are separated by a white space, framing each part by itself, in isolation. But if we look at the two sides together they form a pictorial dichotomy based on this new image. In ‘Ufologie’ the idea was to develop some flyers basing objects in the kaleidoscopic image. I wanted to build, develop and invent from heavy industrial buildings such as steel, brick and wood, very light flying objects, able to hover weightlessly. I have to say that the project ‘Ufologie’ arises because of an accident that immobilized me for several months and that allowed me to work the photographs digitally.

I see that your work shows many differences in approach. What is for you the common theme? Or do you photograph what you pass by?

RM: To me, photography is life itself. It is a communication and enables the exchange of experiences. It allows us to show others what we see, things that fascinate us, people and places we love and hold dear. In that sense I am true to my personal approach in which I capture impulsively in my photographic diary. In my projects or series I have no great difference in my creative or artistic approach and I always work in black and white. My series usually have as common nexus of landscapes, cities and architecture.

© Rafael Monzo

© Rafael Monzo

Is there any contemporary artist or photographer, even if young and emerging, who influenced you in some way?

RM: To name only 3: Alberto Garcia Alix, a wonderful Spanish photographer. Daido Moriyama I consider the Master of street photography and Jacob Aue Sobol, from Magnum Agency, artist of black and white who is able to make masterpieces in photo reportages.

Three books of photography that you recommend?

RM: ‘No me sigas que estoy perdido’ by Alberto Garcia Alix (76-86 Ed. La Fabrica). ‘Congo in Limbo’ by Cédric Gerbehaye (Ed. Le bec en l’air). Fazal Sheikh  edition by Fundacion Mapfre.

Is there any show you’ve seen recently that you find inspiring?

RM: Nothing recently but I remember a few, including “Congo in limbo” that I saw in Brussels or some works of Roger Ballen that I love.

Projects that you are working on now and plans for the future?

RM: For now, I am as agitated as a Martini! I always have ideas that I keep in “work in progress” and I juggle them according to my moods. I also follow a course of wet collodion process, as a way to return to the sources of the photography.

© Rafael Monzo

How do you see the future of photography in general evolve?

RM: As long as there are photographers, there will be upholders of artistic, documentary, remembrance, testimonial or anthropological photography. In my case, I classify photography in two big categories: the good and the bad ones. I mean that photography is always linked with progress and it evolves with us, with our time, and it’s true for film as for digital photography. It is our time machine for things that will never return but still shine through photography.


Rafael Monzo