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Rafael Alcácer

Rafael Alcácer is a photographer based in Madrid (Spain) who I follow since I discovered Flickr and found his work.

Seeking Magazine: What has photography entailed in your life?

Rafael Alcácer: My relationship with photography is relatively recent: four years old, more or less, or since my daughter – who is 6yrs old – began to interact with the world. That’s to say that it’s been a brief relationship, but also intense. In saying that I’m not speaking to what I have been able to achieve in qualitative terms, but rather to the obsessive-compulsive relationship I have with photography.

SM: Family is a strong foundation in your photographic themes – how was this link created and developed?

RA: As I said, I began to make photographs with the arrival in the world of my daughter. I bought a digi-cam and was immediately hooked – more cameras and photography books arrived at home. My daughter loved to be photographed, particularly to see herself on screen immediately after having taken the photograph (she didn’t like that I began to use analogue cameras) and she quickly became accustomed to it all. Not only that however, but she gradually took real pleasure in the activity, costuming herself and playing the clown so that I would photograph her. From this game arose a series that set out to represent that classical family album, but with a comical and also sinister edge. It still is not concluded, although it becomes increasingly difficult to convince my daughter and wife to play along.

SM: I like your portraits for their freshness and spontaneity that they give off – how are the moments before the shot?

RA: It depends on whether they’re people close to me or strangers. If they are strangers encountered in the street, I don’t beat about the bush but ask them directly if I can take their picture. And from there – when the timeworn questions arrive: “why?” and “for what?” – I improvise… Once they are convinced, what I usually do is not cease to talk, to talk all the time while I take a number of photographs. Consciously this is a strategy to relax the subject and avoid the traditional smiley photograph. But subconsciously I think that it is also a way of relaxing myself. Most of the people I ask say yes, and I definitely continue to marvel at the fact that a stranger will allow himself to be photographed like this, for no reason at all. But in any case, this is something I’m still working on. I would like to go further with portraits of strangers, but work them into larger projects.

SM: Have you come to be habitually obsessed with taking photographs?

RA: As I was saying before: my relationship with photography is obsessive… I have little time to dedicate to taking photographs, and I’m always regretting it. Because of that when I have time I try to make the most out of it. That’s the reason why I take photographs frantically and helter-skelter, instead of concentrating on one concrete project… another of the things to work on.

SM: What have been your influences in the field of photography?

RA: I”m not very sure. I have no training in photography, and so my learning process has been completely intuitive. It would be great to say that one day I opened an Eggleston book and then saw the light, and everything made sense… but that would be a lie. It would be terrible to say that my main influence has been Flickr, but that’s the truth. At least it was on Flickr that I began to hear about Eggleston, and Shore and Epstein and Moriyama… But listing names would take forever.

SM: Up to what point do you think it’s important for a photographer to have photographic training?

RA: I think it’s not indispensable. It seems important to have sufficient technical knowledge to know what you can do with a camera; from that point on the fundamental thing, in my opinion, is to be curious about your surroundings. It also seems important to me to know photographer’s work, but for that a photographic education isn’t essential, rather spending many hours looking at photography books and reading about the subject. Knowing what’s been done is also an important fundamental cure for arrogance, in order to avoid believing oneself to be Cartier-Bresson for having photographed a man skipping over a puddle in the street, in order to recognise that 99% of photographs are worthless.

SM: How do you think our understanding and use of photography is changing with the use of social networks by many photographers, collectives and photography schools?

RA: I think that social networks, as a concrete phenomenon, don’t need to alter our understanding of photography. They can serve as a powerful medium of information about what’s going on. Before the internet, you either bought books or went to exhibitions, and there was no other way of seeing Art. Now (and of course it’s obviously not the same seeing it on a monitor) you have access to the work of an infinite number of photographers without leaving your house. But I don’t know, the development of the internet is so fast that maybe in the future virtual exhibitions will replace physical ones…

What can modify the way of making and using photography are new technologies: I think self-publishing and the independent production of photography books by photographers will become increasingly significant. There are already interesting books around, and I’m not talking about blurb or similar websites, but rather books of a quality production. What is a curious phenomenon, because in some way it carries a contrary force to that of the online galleries I spoke about, is the return to paper, to the physical object as a work of art.

SM: Do you think there’ll be a before and after the death of analogue photography?

RA: There’ll be an after but it won’t be very different from before. It seems to me the artistic quality of a photograph doesn’t depend on whether it’s done digitally or on film. I confess that I wouldn’t know very well how to say why I use film in place of digital. I particularly ask myself why the hell I don’t dust off the digital camera I have somewhere when I have to pay for rolls of film or developing… but then I forget why.

SM: With whom would you like to attend a photographic workshop?

RA: Within the little there is, one with Alec Soth in Italy – wouldn’t be bad to be able to go to that. But to ask freely, I would love to do a workshop with Lee Friedlander.

Interview by Andrés Medina
For more information on Rafael Alcácer check his Flickr and his portfolio on

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