By Clara Ribera
Translation: Rebecca Neal
Céline Frers' work is full of color and depth. With a personal touch in every photograph, she captures landscapes and people with visible affection. An Argentinian, Frers grew up in the countryside before living in Buenos Aires, where she went on to study at the Fundación Universidad del Cine film school. She later moved to New York to study photography at the New York Institute of Photography, and then travelled around the world doing a variety of jobs. She then moved back to Argentina to work in the commercial and film world. Her first book, Colores de Corrientes, marked a turning point in her career. Since then, she has focused almost exclusively on still photography, primarily shooting landscapes, people and culture in Argentina. One of three members of the panel of judges for the 3rd Patagonia Photo Contest, Frers spoke with Patagon Journal. Excerpts:
What are the key events in your life that have influenced you as a photographer?
One landmark moment for me was when I started my first professional photography work, with my book Colores de Corrientes. I loved the freedom that I felt and the fact that I could absorb myself in my work and get to know the remotest landscapes and their people. Photography allowed me to do much more intimate work, which was a big contrast with the world of cinema and advertising that I was coming from. There, you always work with a big team, which tends to distance you and limit your movement. It was also in this first work that I discovered a lot of good people, who have always welcomed me with open arms. This really touched me. Since then, thanks to the subjects I choose, I have met some incredibly kind and wise people.
All your pieces have a similar look. They define you as a photographer. How would you describe your photography?
Whether I am working in a commercial or a personal capacity, my photography is always closely linked to the landscape and to nature. It is an intimate style of photography, which tries to convey not only beauty but also an underlying strength and power.
You have spent much of your photography career in Patagonia. What do you like the most about this region in terms of photography?
I have spent quite a lot of time in Patagonia. I am fascinated by it because it is so unspoilt, solitary and remote, and because it has such beautiful and powerful landscapes. It is majestic.
Some of your most important photographic work has been with the gauchos. How has photography brought you and them together?
My affinity with the gauchos began when I was a child. I lived in the countryside for the first years of my life and then I spent all my holidays there. I spent whole summers going out horse riding morning and afternoon with the gauchos. I wanted to be one of them. All these experiences led me to take my photographs of gauchos and then to produce the book. When I am on the land and with the gauchos, I feel at home.
As a member of the panel of judge for Patagon Journal’s photo contest this year, what are you going to look for when judging the participant’s photos?
I want to see photographs that make me feel something, that touch my heart. To do this, they need to have the right framing and lighting and create an atmosphere.
Do you have any advice for the participants in the photo contest?
Patagonia itself is incredibly beautiful, but sometimes this beauty is, paradoxically, a big challenge as it is difficult to convey it in a photograph. I would suggest that participants move away from the typical postcard scenes and look for those special, unique moments and the little details that convey Patagonia’s strength and spirit.
What are you working on right now?
I’m currently working on a book about Argentina and its people. It is about the people who are still deeply rooted in their culture, such as the Mennonites in La Pampa Province, the various colonies and communities, the Wichí, the Mapuche, the Qulla in the North, etc. At the same time, I’m also working on exhibitions and commercial projects.