Look with new eyes: the photography of Pablo Valenzuela Vaillant

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Editors Note: This article originally was published Nov. 15, 2016. The "Habitar la inmenisidad" photo exhibition by Pablo Valenzuela Vaillant will be on display at Centro de Arte Molino Machmar in Puerto Varas, Chile, from Jan. 20. - Feb. 20, 2018. 
Chilean photographer Pablo Valenzuela Vaillant’s work has always been known for its grandeur and beauty in showing the Chilean landscape. A mountaineering enthusiast with a degree in civil engineering, the native of Santiago (52) has been working primarily in photography for almost of his professional life, since 1992, and this week at the Ekho Gallery in Santiago will open his latest exhibition, "Habitar la inmensidad."  This exhibition depicts, from an abstract point of view, the presence of the Chilean inhabitant in the vast Patagonian landscape. One of the judges in our upcoming 3rd Patagonia Photo Contest, and a contributing editor to Patagon Journal, Pablo spoke with us about his new projects and photography.
On November 16 your new exhibition "Habitar la immensidad" (Inhabiting the immensity), featuring minimalist and black and white photography, opens in Santiago. What do you want to tell about Patagonia through this exhibit?
I have been photographing Patagonia for many years, and now I want to show a different aspect of this southern territory. I want to show a different Patagonia, not only through unusual locations, but also approaching it according to the Instant Geometry concept: a clean and minimalist composition of very extreme horizons and wide skies. Following this idea I developed "Habitar la inmensidad" series, which shows man in a challenging landscape. It is the answer to how Chileans inhabit and intervene in our territory. How on a human scale we confront the infinity where the landscape gets lost.
Where have you found your inspiration as a photographer throughout your life, and for this latest project?
The great motivation for me has always been to contribute from an artistic – and not touristic – point of view to the knowledge and value of the Chilean landscape and identity. My dream: we raise awareness, love and respect for Patagonia and that this feeling becomes a sensible, wise, intelligent and responsible way of acting. This is why the Chilean territory and the way of living on it are highly motivating ideas. With this increasingly refined and minimalist look, I believe that I am closer to my goal of using the natural and cultural landscape of Chile as an inspiration for artistic photography.
What kind of photography equipment did you use to create this series? How long have you been working on the project?
Although much of my photography career has been with analog, this new series has been made in a digital format. I use a pro Nikon 36 MP camera and three different lenses. Most of these photographs were taken during 2016, although they are the result of a years-long process of observation and travel. This unusual Patagonia could not have been photographed without having traveled and photographed the particular Patagonian landscape many times over a long period.

What for you does Patagonia have to offer for landscape photography?
The Patagonian territory is tremendously diverse and mostly unknown. Adding the variability of climate – where it is ever changing – Patagonia becomes even more inspiring. Ultimately, photography is the art of drawing with light. The great challenge is to escape from classical photography and for this you not only have to go new places, but sometimes you must photograph them with new eyes. I am interested in giving a twist to the usual and showing a different Patagonia, not only in terms of place, but from another point of view.
Regarding the upcoming Patagonia Photo Contest, what do you think makes a photo stand out?
A good photo is one that can transmit something, that moves the viewer. It would be a photo that talks about a reality given by the particular space and the precise instant from a personal perspective.
What advice do you have for aspiring photographers?
There are three very important things: first, how you look, the intention of the photographer, since he constructs the photograph with his mind and his heart through the particular elements of space and time that he is in. Second, avoid manipulation and intervention in a scene, it does nothing but detract from the meaning and story that is told, and takes away the magic of that moment. And third, the purpose and technique are important.
What photographer has inspired you most throughout your career?
I could not mention a specific photographer with whom I fully identify myself, because we all have our own identity. That said, there are many who have influenced me and whose works and views I have admired over time. As a few examples, I would name the great Ansel Adams for his environmental commitment, De Agostini for his ascension of mountains and aims to show an unknown Patagonia, and Werner Hannapel and John Sexton for their landscapes and forests in black and white.
What are you some of your other current projects?

At the moment I am working on many projects. Next year I will be presenting the "Chile Blanco" series at the Bogotá Biennial in Colombia. I will also exhibit "Ayquina Fiesta" in Santiago and at the recently inaugurated Molino Machmar in Puerto Varas. In addition, I will continue perfecting the “Geometría del cementerio de Punta Arenas" (Geometry of the cemetery of Punta Arenas) series. Finally, I want to go deeper into the concept of this present exhibition through the book "Habitar la inmensidad, Patagonia," which will be published the end of next year.

- Clara Ribera



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