Anaïs López Amsterdam, Netherlands
Anaïs López (1981) studied photography at the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague and the Sint Joost Academy in Breda. She combines working as a photographer for various magazines with making her own long term photo documentaries. With her personal work Anaïs López aims to show a new image of the world around her. A returning question in her work is whether people make their urban society or if it is the other way around.
Anaïs López was chosen by photographer Jana Romanova.
Laatikkomo’s interview with Anaïs López, October 2nd, 2015.
L: Where are you from? Or what cities, and/or countries have you lived in – what places have influenced you?
AL: I grew up in the South of France and in Spain. I moved to Amsterdam when I was sixteen. Growing up in different places in Europe made me who I am. I am not Dutch, French or Spanish, I am a mix of all that, a European.
L: What is your first memory of photography?
AL: Since I can remember I wanted to be a photographer and an adventurer. Before going to the Art Academy I wanted to be a war photographer and change the world with images. At the age of 18 I travelled by myself to Central America and started to photograph injustice. Those were my first real pictures. I was quite naive and it almost cost me my life. When I came home I realized I didn’t want to be in the frontlines. Two years later I went to the Art Academy and learned I could use photography in a different way, without having to risk my life.
L: From your website, it seems that most of your work is collaboration based projects: either with other artists or with your subject such as in “No bird sang” where you followed Jean IJburg, a blind man, for one and a half years. How do you choose your collaborators?
AL: Depending on the story I want to tell, I decide who to collaborate with. The most important thing for me is that there is a synergy: the people I collaborate with have to have their own unique view on things and add something to the project.
L: It seems that you approach all your stories from the inside out starting from a very intimate level. How do you – or can you – separate yourself and your own story from the story you are telling?
AL: I never thought about it in that way. It always starts with a fascination for a place or a story that someone tells me that triggers my imagination. I never try to separate myself from it, at least not consciously.
L: In one interview for the Dutch Doc Award in 2014 (link) you talk about learning to change your rhythm and to incorporate social obligations into your process while working in Burundi. Have you managed to maintain a choice of different rhythms upon your return to Europe or does the place always dictate the rhythm of a project?
AL: I think it is the place that dictates the rhythm of the project. I try to influence it of course but I learned to just wait for what is going to happen. That’s when things become interesting. Sometimes not understanding how things works, letting things take their course and surrendering to the circumstances is needed to have the project unfold and become meaningful.
L: You mentioned that you are interested in telling a story that is not a political account of a situation, but you are also interested in taking a political stand and photographing politically charged subjects. How do you find the balance?
AL: That is always difficult. I focus on the story and my characters, that is my aim. The political implications are often a part of that, but they are never the leading aspect.
L: One of your more recent projects is “Country without orphans” made in Rwanda where the children documented themselves, their life and each other. How did you come to this choice of giving the position of photographer over to the children for this project? And do you imagine a follow-up project for 5 or 10 years in the future?
AL: I left the photography of the last days in the orphanage to them, because they knew better than anyone what made the orphanage their home and what was important to them. Because they were making the photographs themselves, the photos have an intimacy that I would not be able to achieve in such a short period of time. I photographed and filmed as well, but focused on other things: more dreamlike images of the orphanage.
And yes I definitely think we, Paulien Bakker (writer), Anisleidy Martinez Fonseca (filmmaker) who I making this project with, are going back in a few years to see what happened to them.
L: What makes an image successful?
AL: I could give you ten different answers, that would all be valid, but for me the most important thing is that the image has to tell a story.
L: Could you list 5 (or more) words that you were thinking about when you made this project shown in Laatikkomo?
AL: Can I use three sentences instead of five words? Living in a bubble, finding a home, what is family.
Thank you so much Anaïs!