Alright – let’s start with the basics. Who are you and where do you live?
I am Juan Trujillo Andrades and, among a variety of things, I am a fashion photographer. I live in London.
How do you step into the world of photography?
Well, I was a fine arts student. I was into art theory, performances and installations. Taking pictures was merely a way to record my work. It became an enjoyable exercise. In the meantime I got into the art world doing my performances in different shows and events and I also started writing a bit of art theory. Then I realized of how much I enjoyed taking pictures and especially with women, so it all kicked off.
Most of your photos are fashion-photos… why fashion and how do you get in touch with it? Firstly because I like taking pictures of women. Simple as that. I know most male fashion photographers wouldn’t admit it, but it’s the real truth. Regarding the question of how is a bit more complex. At some point I was developing this project about the condition of being a foreigner and the spaces that we inhabit. I was photographing real people and their houses, and even snapping random peoples gardens. Then I realized that sometimes reality wasn’t good enough to convey a certain idea, that reality and its composition can be arranged and faked to reproduce a more interesting or powerful subject for a picture and even a more effective language. Basically I started by moving a piece or furniture and I ended up choosing the right clothing and casting the best people. One thing leads to another and fashion became the best way to combine all this in a single discipline, creating stories and playing with the real.
I’ve been always convinced of the necessity to think about realism and its limits. Architecture or landscape don’t give you enough room to play with the condition of the image as a translator of reality, as a middle stage between the subject and the way in which people receive it.
“Fashion and portraiture have the advantage of been rooted in the tradition of story telling, like painting
and documentary. This makes them better subjects to talk about realism. Which is not the same as talking about reality…”
You live now in London, but came from Spain – how big is the difference between the fashion & photography-industries between this two countries? Spain is a smaller environment; there are less people in the industry so therefore there is less space for new photographers. Also the economic climate in Spain is very deteriorated. London on the other hand is a big beast, but also a place where you learn faster and encounter more things in your way. The industry is not necessarily better or more interesting here, but the immediacy and the amount of the new things happening is overwhelming. It makes up for a good thinking environment.
I must admit though that I try to place myself out of the fashion scene. Whether I’m in Spain or the UK. I’m not the type of photographer that goes around partying with the fashion kids. I like reading and sitting in the pub with a pint. And London is a great city for that; there are multiple environments and you can navigate across different places and types of people with great ease.
What are your personal reasons to go to London? And – do you want to go back to Spain one day?
When I first came to London it was the nearest place where you could become a good fashion photographer. In Spain the industry seems smaller and there is less money at the moment to invest in fashion. Also I’ve never managed to stay in one single place until now. London finally managed to keep me interested. It is constantly changing, things seem to change places and even the landscape of the city evolves in front of your eyes. I’ve been here for three years and the surface and shape of this city is not the same as when I first came. Iconic buildings have been destroyed and there is always a new trend emerging. Also Londoners have a very good response to new things in general, you can speak loudly about anything and nobody cares about it.
Regarding the question of whether I want to go back to Spain. I feel more Spanish now than when I lived there. I come from Cadiz, right at the south, which is a beautiful place, and I go back there twice a year. It’s completely idyllic but there’s nothing there for me besides the family, the food and the wine. Maybe one day I will retire there with a bunch of books and a camera. I’m not very interested now in Madrid or Barcelona, I never felt there as inspired as in London.
Where do you think, will be the next central point in the future for fashion? Do you see new light somewhere on the horizont? Yes, it’s in the Internet. It literally has no place, no location.
“The future of fashion is becoming a stream of information based on images and video. It will become an experience, a form of ideology that is seen rather than used…”
On the other hand fashion can’t only live on its image, clothes need to be worm for the industry to survive. Asia and the Middle East look like very exciting places in that sense. New markets are a source of changes because there are more new consumers that feel inclined to spend money on something groundbreaking. Nonetheless, as I said London hasn’t stopped moving, things are still coming up here and it still holds a reputation of being edgy and shocking.
Back to the shootings – are you a quiet photographer, or one of them who scream and jumps around?
I’m very quiet, right to the point when I get the shot that I was looking for or something unexpected happens. Then I scream, jump and smile like a child. I spend most of my time thinking, in fact my whole process of becoming a serious photographer was based on taking less and less pictures and thinking more instead of acting. Sometimes I literally sit there and think, then ask my assistant to help me moving something and finally take a test shot. Once I look at this take another few shots to improve little elements on it. After ten shots I have finished with and outfit and onto the next one. Sometimes people don’t understand this, on one occasion I had to turn around and tell the whole team to stop talking because my assistant and I were having trouble thinking. As they didn’t stop I turned around again and shouted at them very loudly. That time it worked!
I have started to gain a reputation for being quiet and taking very few shots. Also I always stop for lunch because I believe that people think and work better with a full stomach.
What makes the perfect model for you? And do you explain models every single step of your ideas before the shooting? The perfect model is intelligent and knows how to listen. I tell them even what to do with their fingers. And this is not a joke: some models make fun of my obsession with the position and use of hands. I am a control freak in that sense. As I said I like to arrange reality to make it more interesting, that implies taking control of everything, including the mood and movements of the model.
“In terms of the look of the models I like strong looking women, daring and sexy. Men should be masculine and also have a strong character. I don’t take part in the ‘super young models’ trend…”
Where do you find your inspirations? Do you also read magazines or surfing around and look, what other photographers make? I read a lot. I read novels and poetry and eventually modern theory. The amount of desire and drama contained in Of Love And Other Demons, or the fear and tension in Pedro Paramo have no comparison. Literature and history are a great source of inspiration. My problem is that I see fashion photography as self-referential. It looks at itself way too much. Most fashion photographers copy other fashion photographers and they never realize of it. In fact it is pretty hard no to do it. Mediocrity is important in fashion; it’s rewarded. What I mean with this is that some clients don’t want you to do anything new and interesting. They want you to repeat the same thing that comes up year after year. Here is where fashion becomes commercial and it’s important to look outside of it to expand it and make it more interesting.
Maybe because of this I really admire the work of those that manage to be different and strong. Mario Sorrenti is always surprising. His work reveals new encounters between fashion and the real world. I would also mention Jean Francois Lepage. He is just simply brave; his aesthetics are a landmark of creativity.
Because I saw it in your blog – topless shootings as fashion-photographer – could that be sometimes a problem or do have most of the models no problem with that? Is there any difference between the countries or cultures dealing with this situation? Interesting question. Certainly there are differences. The bigger the context the more open models are about the subject. For example it’s more common for the London girls to show their breasts than what it is for models in a small French town. I wouldn’t say that it depends in the country itself but in the city and how edgy the industry is in that place. In a more competitive city like London, girls are keener to do their best to help you achieve the images that you want. In any case, it’s generally not a problem at all if you are clear and call things by their name.
Do you work alone or do you have a fix team around you – to organize the shootings and similar?
I do have a team. It changes sometimes depending on the project or who is available. I like surrounding myself with people that I like, people that I can have a beer with and laugh at ourselves. I work with very few stylists right now because they are nice people and I enjoy their company and intelligence. I’m working again with my last two stylists, Crystal Deroche and Daniel Higgins. They are nice people and both talented and intelligent.
Another thing – you have also a lot of bicycle-photos on your portfolio… that’s unusual! Where is the key for it? Are you a rider too? Yes I am (laughs). I’ve been into cycling since I was a kid. I used to do mountain biking until I moved to London and discovered track bikes, the whole fixed gear scene and so on.
“The people are amazing and cycling in a place like London literally changes your way of life.”
It was just a matter of time for me to end up taking pictures of bikes and riders. For example the collaboration with Mission Workshop was really good fun and the people in the cycling scene are very conscious of their style. As they say it’s almost as important to look good on a bike as to ride it well.
So you also work for the bicycle-industry. How big is the difference between fashion and bicycle-photography?
It’s huge. Working for the cycling industry was a nice change because I get tired of the fashion crowd sometimes. I’ve been very lucky and in the few jobs that I have done in the cycling industry I have always worked with friends. Also it gave me the chance to explore portraiture and develop stories around the lifestyle and aesthetics of cycling, which are very complex nowadays. Cycling is a trend, and the fashion industry knows this. Look for example at the collaboration between Paul Smith and Rapha (cycling clothes brand), which has a very high fashion approach for their campaigns. Also I’m starting a project with an English fashion magazine for a cycling story involving fashion brands in a narrative about cycling.
Are you sometimes nervous before a shoot? Was there a shoot in your career, where everything went wrong?
I’m never nervous before shooting. I’m always excited and I always look forward to starting a shoot. But the best feeling comes right after, a great deal of satisfaction. And yeah – I had a horrible shoot once for two clients that had no idea of what they wanted and they thing almost ended up in tears. You have to watch out for those kinds of people because they will always blame you when things go wrong.
If there would be no borders like money, laws and similar – what kind of shooting would you realize?
I’d shoot an incredibly long story, more than 200 pages, with multiple locations and subjects. It would be like L.A Portfolio by Steven Klein but much bigger and with loads of references to literature, probably to A Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
Where do we see you in five years? As fashion & beauty photographer or as rider? And what can we expect?
I will be doing something similar to what I do now. I will be a fashion and beauty photographer that shoots lots of personal stuff and rides a bike everywhere. Maybe just with bigger clients and travelling a bit more. I will probably still be in London with my bike.
Art is the finest form of knowledge, it looks at the world and examines its behavior, it revises our memory and reconstructs history. Without it societies would fall into ignorance and depression, life would be reduced to statistics and efficiency controls. Art is a way to see beyond ourselves, to surprise us and to thrill us.
Last questions – what kind of music do you hear?
Different things really, I like flamenco, Latin jazz, bosa nova, blues. But when I’m shooting a like a bit of opera, I need the drama.
Five things you can’t life without?
A good glass of wine, a bike ride, taking pictures of beautiful women, literature and a double espresso in the mornings… *laughs*
Juan, thanks a lot for your time!!!
Interview by Emanuel Sprosec