Interview with Juan Giraldo who talks about identities and allegories

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Juan Giraldo is a photographer currently living and working in the New York metro area; he received his MFA in May of 2015 from Columbia College’s photography department. He was born in Manizales, Colombia and raised in Paterson, New Jersey. He’s been A-I-R at The Center for Photography at Woodstock, & Eyes on Main Street. Exhibitions include, 2018 Flesh/Water, Curated by Kelly Ciurej, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, HI, HATCH, Curated by Zora J Murff MEDICI Gallery and many others. His work explores the personal interior spaces of working people, the textures of a working life and the banal indicators of domesticity  that shaped his view of the world, both as a first generation immigrant and laborer. In addition to this, he is a freelance editorial photographer, educator and continues to photograph his family as part of an ongoing project in which he looks at his relationship with his parents & their immigrant experiences.

18 Esperanza Hammond IN

About ‘Blue & Blue‘:

Hi Juan, please introduce us to Blue & Blue.

Blue & Blue was born out of my personal history – I was raised in a Paterson, NJ’s Riverside section; my brother, father & I moved to the United States in the summer of 1981, from Manizales, Colombia. My community growing up in Riverside was multi cultural and working class. I also had this desire to bring a different narrative to documentary (fine art) photography. I wanted to bring not only my personal experiences into the work, but I felt it was important for a Latino artist to be making this work under the auspices of a documentary photo tradition.

How do you hope the readers will react to Blue & Blue, ideally?

Ideally, I would like the readers to look at the work and think about the people in the images – that despite socio-economic differences & disparages, they have & carry themselves with as much dignity & grace as any other person or any other subject that’s been painted, sculpted, photographed, etc., in the history of art as we know it to be. I’d also like to add that the three things that I see in the work that are important and hope the viewer takes away are – Dignity, Allegory, & Identity.

Did you have any specific references or sources of inspiration in mind while working on Blue & Blue?

I always have a few things kicking around in my head that are somewhat ever present when I go to make pictures. Visually speaking Goya, Caravaggio, Rembrandt for their use of light, Courbet, Daumier & Millet for the subjects that they chose to depict in their paintings (sometimes I feel that Courbet was a documentary painter). Rivera & Orozco for the way they depicted historical & cultural events in their murals; seeing their work was not only inspirational but also important to see non-western European work had a deep impact on me as an artist.  Photographically I’d have to say Lewis Hine, Walker Evans, Helen Levitt, William Eggleston, Alec Soth, Larry Sultan, Deanna Lawson to name a few. Here are some non-visual things Studs Terkel, This American Life, Philip Levine, A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn!

What was the biggest difficulty in carrying out this project? Do you think you can bring it forward?

Besides the financial aspect of any project, for me it was finding the language for the work that I was making, I knew what I was doing, how I felt but, it was hard putting that into physical printed matter and expanding on the initial idea. And knowing when the project should come to an end. I think that I have, I no longer live in Chicago or the Midwest for that matter so as of now the project is complete, although at some point I would like to go back and make a few more images of some of the people I’ve photographed.

What’s your favorite drink?

This is a tough one; it’s a split between old fashioned, Aberlor 12 or 16 neat & chocolate shakes!

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www.juancgiraldo.com