Photographer Spotlight – Jose Manuel Alorda
Tell us about yourself…
I’m a Spanish Photographer currently living in San Francisco. I was born in Ibiza (yes, the party island), but I grew up in Mallorca where my family lives and Barcelona, where I received my Fine Art Degree in Photography.
How did you discover your love for photography?
When I was 14 years old my grandfather bought me a Minolta camera. I started playing around with it and he religiously payed for all the prints and developing, even before the cheap 1-hour labs. I started taking pictures of my family and friends, of course. I always loved Art and Architecture. At 18 years old, I finally enrolled at the Fine Art University in Barcelona. In the first year, we had Photography as one of the subjects and I got the Honors qualification. I started working as an assistant of the teachers and that definitely opened my absolute passion for photography.
Who are some of your favorite photographers? (Past or Present)
There’s an absolute God and his name was Robert Frank. And you can find any answer about life in Duane Michals, pure poetry. I have recently discovered the futuristic work of Benedict Redgrove and of course I have bought his stunning book “NASA, Past and Present dreams of the Future”. I love, love, love, photography – not enough room for a list, LOL!
You work both in the US and Europe. Can you share some details on what it is like to work internationally?
Working internationally started when I moved out of Spain and lived in the North of Europe. Then you realize your work is not connected anymore with where you live. You become “exotic” … For the Spanish clients you are the Spanish who lives in North Europe, for the Dutch or French, you are the Spanish who lives in The Netherlands but constantly traveling to the South. For the Americans you are the European Photographer. So that makes sense when clients approach me to do a project that involves traveling, either locally or internationally.
Social Media presence has changed the concept of locality. The most important project I have ever done came from an Instagram contact. Before Facebook bought Instagram, contacts with clients were closer and direct. There was no Social Media manager yet and you could have direct contact with a top designer or architect, which was a game changer instead of a cold call or email.
Can you describe a photographically challenging situation that you were confronted with that you were able to resolve on the fly?
People are always curious about some of my low light images. There’s a difference between just putting some light in a scene versus creating a mood with lighting. I always see any project or photoshoot as a challenge that I embrace. Shooting a basement in the dark with black walls and velvet furniture. Shooting a tiny bathroom, all black with a unique light point and source. A golden chandelier? Every time you go to work, all is different, you can’t expect or predict things, at the end. Anything can turn in another direction. That’s the beauty or danger of any photographic work. Experiences and trials are tests. It’s so important to be ready in those situations.
What about architectural work appeals to you?
I’m a quiet person. Slow and rational. I don’t shoot only Architecture. When people ask me, I always answer “I shoot anything that doesn’t move”. I need the time to analyze, to light, so see the object. A building, a room or just a bottle. I have been teaching photography for many years. But also I have been teaching Technical Drawing and Geometry for Architects with Photography. I decided to go for the creative side of Architecture.
First, we need to know who we are, and the extension of that should be our photographic work. A National Geographic photographer who is able to spend 3 months in a pond with a frog is usually a Biologist. He knows how frogs behave, he loves photography and he knows his equipment. With all respect, I could never do sports, fashion or wedding photography, I would be totally lost. As a joke, I always say, if I had to shoot an athletics race, sure the guy would have had the medal already, had his shower, be back at the locker room, and I would be still balancing the lines of the tracks with my medium format big heavy camera to have the perfect straight lines and composition, LOL I know that my work has a very sculptural dimension, about light and volume, that’s why interiors and architecture are my preference.
What is your favorite underrated photographic tool? Why?
Honestly, the photometer. I know I might be old school. I grew up as a photographer with the Zone System. Nowadays I’m using a Sekonic spot meter and knowing exactly what is the value and contrast of different areas without having to shoot many images is mandatory for me. Again, less shooting and more thinking.
With so many great digital camera systems to choose from today, why Phase One?
I have been a Hasselblad user for years, but the Digital change was not good to me. A lot of problems came with computer tethering and challenges with manufacturer customer service. The amount of information and help that you have in the internet from Phase one and Capture One is stunning. As a previous Hasselblad user, I was not happy with the Hasselblad TS adaptor and I knew that was not the right tool for me. I was using the TS Canon lenses as well, but these lenses were not as versatile as the Alpa system. For me the Alpa has been a life changing experience. And of course, I love the quality of the Rodenstock lenses.
If you were behind your camera and could choose anything you wanted to be in your viewfinder, where would you be and what would you be looking at?
Actually, I have already experienced that. Shooting a Venetian Palazzo in Gran Canal for a French Designer. Flying 17 hours from San Francisco to Venezia. The first day I arrived during the scouting, I cried.
Why did you select Capture Integration as your equipment partner?
I’m a professional, but this doesn’t mean I’m Superman. A photoshoot involves a cable, a connection, a lens that suddenly doesn’t work! It is so important having people at your back. Being professional is not about me, it is me and the team of many people that support me. Assistants, retouchers and technical support. With Capture Integration, I feel I’m part of a family. So many amazing professional photographers that I admire so much. I’m honored to be here, writing these lines and presenting my work. Thank you so much for this opportunity.