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Interview with Xavi Bou
Interview with Xavi Bou
Today we have the pleasure of interviewing Xavi Bou, a young man from Barcelona who, from a very early age, felt a passion for nature that was instilled in him by his grandfather, as he himself acknowledges in his biography. His studies in natural sciences and at the Grisart International School of Photography led Xavi to bring together both strands of his education, and the result can be found in his current projects that he tells us about in this interview.
What did you want to do when you were young?
As a child, when I was in school, one had to draw oneself and I drew myself recording animal reports and it's funny because I am using those cameras currently. I always liked the natural sciences although, in the end, I graduated in geology.
When did you become a photographer and artist? How did you get started?
Well, professional outings were complicated since we were in the middle of the crisis at the time I finished studying, so alongside that I started studying photography. Out of those three years of study, one of the professors invited me to be his assistant and I started working in the world of fashion and advertising. In those years, I worked with several photographers to help them in various branches such as lighting in photography and I started working with major brands, including Mango or Tous to name a few. But always with photos taken by others. There came a point that I decided to set up my personal project and it had to be something I knew about. That was nature, but mixed with innovation, looking for new things which is what always caught my attention.
Can you explain your project / work and where the idea came from?
Nature has accompanied me all my life and up until now it was a hobby. This, accompanied by my desire to do something new, one day led me to think of the trace that a bird would leave in the sky. I imagined those lines and began to find out about how I could do this as nobody had ever done it before.
What technical process is involved in one of your works?
To get what I get in the final photo, you have to take many photos per second and gather all those images into one. To do that, I used film cameras of more than 4k. In this way, I can take 60 photos per second and then I put them all together. There are many GB of memory per photo and the process is slow. Just imagine how many photos it takes to create the final result!
Where do you take these photos?
Normally, I move around Catalonia. Before, I had to rent the equipment because there was no specific camera for this, or it was very expensive. That is why I took advantage of the weekends when it was cheaper to rent it, so I could not go far. Now that I have my own equipment, I have moved more like, for example, Iceland, the United States or Tarifa, because of the great number of migratory birds that pass through there
Do you choose the bird or the area?
Well, normally the birds. If I am looking for cranes, I go in search of them and I study the areas they pass through.
Because my goal is to record natural movement. As I take so many photos per second and I lay them over one another, you don't really see the bird. What I want to reveal is movement. To do this, you need what you are after to be set against a clear background. In other words, the sky is my canvas; on land, this would not be interesting nor would it be a movement like a drawing. In addition, you would see trees and other things. Sure, it could be done with fish or insects but my knowledge of birds means that I do not want to change.
If you could choose one superpower, what would it be? Flying? To be invisible?
Flying is more fun than being invisible. If you are invisible, you can’t do anything good!
Which artists have influenced you?
The ones that managed to do something similar were those who invented chrono-photography, among them Edward James Muggeridge and Jules Marey. They invented the technique of revealing what the human eye is unable to see because of speed, freezing moments. That did not influence me, but it has got a lot to do with it and a century has passed since then.
With respect to contemporary artists, Wot Worthy is one of the first to work in nature. He works with fallen leaves, rocks or wool and makes it really beautiful, completely breaking with the harmony of nature.
I would like to have done a project that one photographer has done with infra-red sensors, applying a more artistic aspect of nature at night without disturbing living beings. These cameras take low-quality photos that make shadows and are really amazing.
What do you think of the current art scene nowadays?
Well, I make a living from the photos, that is to say, from selling them, but now I am finding it hard to exhibit. I am doing exhibitions little by little but it is harder work for me than selling. Above all, interesting galleries that then take you to fairs. This helps you to have prestige and it is a very important place for doing business.
The bad thing is that, in the end, it depends on someone influential liking your work. If that doesn't happen, you can be better than others, but you don't have that all-important key. It can also go against you if what you do is not very suitable for decoration. Luckily, I have very good feedback these days; many people say lots of nice things about me.
Are you in favour of or against social media for getting your work known out there?
In favour. It is very important, thanks to that I got published in National Geographic! Around 20 million people saw my project. But there are peaks and types of audience. An online exhibition reaches more people but it goes further in printed magazines and exhibitions.
Of which work do you feel proudest?
Of the latest ones of the starlings. The shape is the one I was looking for, the abstract.
What is the best and the worst thing that has happened to you while you were taking photos?
Many times, it is frustrating because nature does what it wants and you are expecting something else and that makes you angry! (laughs) You have to deal with chance and frustration. When what you want happens one time, you feel really happy. What is more, until I get home, I don't see the end result, which can be better or worse. The best thing is when something unexpected happens.
If you could exhibit in the place of your dreams, where would it be?
Any museum of contemporary art or better…The Arles Festival, in the south of France. That is where the best photographers are. It is not the Reina Sofía Museum or a luxurious museum but it is where the best are.
How much of what you do is organic and how much is mathematical in your works? With which part do you identify most?
Well, everything goes together. I think it is directly related to both the organic and the mathematical. I try to make the invisible visible.
Is there a specific message you want to convey or do you leave it to the imagination of the person viewing it?
Well, my mission is to get people to reconnect with nature. On top of that, the birds that I photograph are birds that are close to cities; it is not necessary to cross the world to see birds. There are more species than people think. To get people exercising to enjoy nature again and for them to realise what is all around us.
What is your ideal breakfast?
Toast with avocado and apple, carrot, lemon and ginger juice.
Interventions in nature
Your favourite restaurant?
El rasoterra. Born, Barcelona.
Your favourite place to get away?
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