The subtle art of portrait photography: Alberto Monteraz

jardines lejanos

Please tell us more about your background: where do you live, when did you become interested in photography, how has that interest grown over time?

I live in a small village in Cádiz (Spain) that has no traffic lights. My interest in photography comes from my total incapacity to express myself by other artistic means: music, writing, and painting, fundamentally. That interest remains because the learning curve in photography is steep; then, as in all arts, one must stay with it — you need work, dedication, and love for the profession.

How would you define your photographic style? Most of your photos on Flickr are portraits of women. Do you work with professional models or are they strangers?

I’ve never defined my photographic style, really, but people often say that spontaneity and sincere expression are the distinguishing features of my work in front of the camera. It’s odd, because it’s not my intention to take natural photos, but it’s the only thing I can do, even when I’ve tried to do other things. My models are occasionally professional, but not always, and I’ve found many of the people I photograph in the street.


Your photos have a particular style and cinematic look. What is your process when taking photos? How do you get ready to shoot and what do you do with the result?

I think that studio work is very important to a photographer, just as a musician invests hours in practicing at home. I see a lot of photography every day, whether intended or not. I take ideas, write them down in a notebook, and search for remote locations all by myself with the camera in the street. Sometimes it takes months to be able to execute them and almost always I come up with something different than what I had in mind, but I think it’s part of the process. Regarding processing, I admire cinematic photography: subdued colors, powerful contrasts and faint lighting. My editing is simple, the difficulty is to acquire a style and be consistent with it. I admire photographers that always use the same format.

What are some of the things that inspire you? Do you have particular photographers you admire on Flickr or elsewhere?

I’m inspired by music. Fifty per cent or more of my photography is inspired by the music I listen to, somehow transformed into images by magic. I’m a great fan of other photographers and there are people doing very interesting things on Flickr. I like the first period of Benoit Paillé, the decadent air of Laura Makabresku or the elegance in the portraits of Jan Scholz and Andrea Hübner… I could go on and on.

il vento sul crinale talvolta è cosi forte...

In addition to portraits, you have other interesting compositions. Can you tell us more about the image above?

First of all, I want to clarify that these are not photomontages, a horrible word that’s been occasionally used to describe these series of photographies and that doesn’t match the reality: everything I photograph in Rimas de la Sombrä I’ve seen it with my own eyes. The image above was inspired by a music video from a group called Röyksopp, in which there is a flying house. I thought it was funny and didn’t stop until finding one.

Elejía, Querido diario, Jardines Lejanos… What meaning do photo titles have for you? And the verses in your descriptions, do you compose them yourself or are they by other authors?

My photo titles are categories and have a sense that is overcoming laziness. I wouldn’t be able to think of a title every time, so I came up with some classifications to cover everything: Elejía is a poetic figure that I use to refer to those portraits in which gaze is the most important element; Jardines Lejanos is a book by Juan Ramón Jiménez that I use for those portraits in which the background is part of the photo along with the subject. Rimas de la Sombrä are these unusual scenes that we mentioned before; the Alvientos and Baläs de Mariposa have their essence in the sensitivity of the human body; Tesorø are the small things I find in my path and Querido Diario (Dear Diary), as the name suggests, are those scenes I want to remember. Sometimes I add a small text to the photo that has some meaning to me, ninety nine per cent of the time it will be a poem by Juan Ramón Jiménez or Miguel Hernández, or fragments of some song by Supersubmarina, Héroes del Silencio or Love of Lesbian.

jardines lejanos

What three portraits among your work would you highlight for our audience?

I have a special affection for these three. The first one (above), of Marian Redondo, because when she saw it she told me it was the first time that, as a model, she “recognized herself,” something beautiful to hear as a portrait photographer.

universos infinitøs

The second one because of the circumstances: we were in a rural house on the outskirts of Barcelona, at five or six Celsius degrees; the model, Judith Posada, was shivering — the goosebumps are real — but we all hung in there in a foolish and common effort to create something beautiful.

un desconocido, la carretera

The last portrait is from my series of strangers. He is a Polish guy I found hitchhiking in the middle of nowhere. I was returning from a beautiful trip and the situation arose unexpectedly. Not only did he agree to be photographed without knowing anything about me, but he also waited while we found a red background, which is what I wanted.

Do you have any projects in mind for the future?

I’m finishing a series about the human body landscape that I’ll start publishing soon on Flickr. It’s something that has always fascinated me and that I’ve already started. And I’ve been working for more than a year on a project of small places and hideouts that generally go unnoticed, because they might be considered ordinary or plain, but that call my attention powerfully.

Is there anything else we should know about you?

I just want to thank you for your attention and all Flickr folks for their support and feedback throughout the years. This community has helped me a lot to grow as a photographer.


Be sure to visit Alberto (montechröme)’s Flickr photostream to see more of his work.