The work of Spanish photographer Verónica Losantos is influenced by absence. Her pictures show people and places between solitude and intimacy and capture the interplay of these two conditions.
I looked at your „you are (not) alone“ photo series and wondered: Why is solitude such an interesting concept for photographers?
It is very essential to the creative process. When I am alone, I have the time to think. I have better ideas and feel more creative overall. You don’t get distracted from what you actually want to do. It takes time to decide what you want to do with an idea and how you are going to do it and usually you find that time when you are alone. For four years, I took pictures that symbolize solitude and love – usually on the road, alone – and at the end, I had a massive archive of pictures. It took some time to figure out how I could use these pictures to represent what I wanted to tell with them.
That’s the creative process side but then there is also the importance of solitude as the photographer’s subject.
The pictures from this series were all taken on the street so nothing is staged. I think that is the best way to capture solitude because I don’t know if it can be staged at all. I normally tend to isolate the person or object I am photographing but this was different because I didn’t know if I would be able to transport the mood or feeling by isolating the subject. What was difficult with this project was finding the subject
What is interesting about your series is that you also included a lot of pictures of buildings or streets but usually we associate only humans with feelings like loneliness or love.
True, but these are our surroundings so they do have an effect on us. I wanted to portray objects to show this and to complement the pictures I took of people. That’s why very often, you see two pictures that I have put next to each other to make that connection. I also put pictures of different people next to each other to show the dependency we humans have vis-à-vis other people and that causes the feelings of solitude we sometimes feel. Also: just showing people, standing alone somewhere, looking sad, that would have been too easy.
In the explanatory notes of “you are (not) alone”, you quote Erich Fromm who said that the intensity with which we love, often mirrors the intensity of the solitude we felt before. Why did you choose that quote?
I think it is something we all experience. You are with other people and you might love other people but you know that, ultimately, you are alone in this world. We all depend on relating to others. The human being is the only living being that has this dependency. Of course, we can be alone and survive but loneliness is something intrinsically human. We can’t be alone forever but we need to be alone sometimes – this dichotomy really fascinates me.
Coming back to the abandoned places and objects you portray: Why do you think that we have developed such a deep interest in this subject?
I think it has a lot to do with nostalgia for bygone eras and we wonder about the history of these places and objects. We can experience the past through them and these places invoke feelings that we don’t get just everywhere.
Like solitude or loneliness?
It depends; I mean you can also feel very lonely in a huge city, surrounded by millions of people. I think abandoned places invoke nostalgia or melancholia and these feelings might lead you to feel lonely or solitary but I don’t think that necessarily has to happen.
There is one picture from “you are (not) alone” that caught my interest in particular. It depicts a big public square and small groups of individuals standing around. You see that the individuals are not alone but the picture nevertheless invokes a feeling of solitude.
It shows people that are alone among each other. The picture was taken in Rome and the square is usually heavily populated but yet there is no real feeling of being together in this moment. People are just there – together alone.
The other photo series “screen memories” shows glimpses of your own past. You portray your childhood and the lack of the father figure. There are two protagonists – you and your father – but one of them is portrayed by his absence.
This project is about the relationship between memory and photography. I researched a lot and decided to use my own memories for it, the ones from my childhood and from the time with my father. I also tried to tell about his absence during a long period of my life, so this is why the man representing him is never wholly recognizable in the pictures. He is present but not there.
What is fascinating about these pictures is that some of them depict very banal objects or memories it seems …
Yes, there are pictures showing important events or special occasions but then many just show something very random that comes to my mind when I think about my father. These memories are what Sigmund Freud called “screen memories”. The pictures of that series can be divided in three categories …
Some of the pictures show actual memories that I still have, some show memories I only got through pictures of that time and then there are invented memories. When I started working on this project, I started out with a few memories and then every memory would trigger another one. I also started to concern myself a lot with the way memory works. Memory is selective and usually, the memories that we have are linked to some other sense experience like a noise or a smell. I wanted to also give these impressions some room in this project.