An Interview with Victor Cobo
Michael Christopher Brown interviews fellow photographer Victor
What are the special ingredients in your picture making
For me, photography is escapism. It always has been and always
will. Now I create a sort of universe for myself, searching out
characters as if I was a director making a film. I find landscapes
and objects and characters which seem surreal. For me it is about
the experience, putting myself in situations where the experience
is going to yield something that is interesting. Maybe a tension
between me and the subject matter, or a strange sort of flirtation,
it depends on the situation. These pictures are done in my
backyard, I don't really travel to make photographs. To some extent
it is dramatized, but it is basically my life.
Do you think people understand your work?
I don't know, I think there are misconceptions about it. Some
people have a problem with the nudity and don't understand what is
going on, or that they think I am exploiting people. But people
will always have issues with work that is tough to fit into a
particular genre. If it's not fashion, documentary or fine art,
then what is it? I used to be a photojournalist, working at a
newspaper and later for magazines, and I think this history makes
the work I am doing now more interesting as there is a hint of
journalism in the work.
from the series 'Flâneur' © Victor Cobo
Why do some people believe you are copying other
I don't know. Perhaps it is because I am photographing similar
things that others (Daido Moriyama, Antoine D'Agata, Anders
Petersen, JH Engström) photographed. But many people are doing
similar things with a similar style, playing on the amateur
snapshot, the vernacular photograph but done with a keen and
perceptive eye. We play with these two worlds in similar ways, so
it's easy to say I am copying or doing the same thing. Though of
course, the work certainly fits into a genre: There's a book coming
out called MONO, I'm in there with Moriyama and Peterson, etc, and
much of the work in that book is of similar subject matter and all
in black and white. It takes time to get to the point where people
say 'ok that is Victor and nobody else.' Maybe I am not there yet
or maybe I am and don't realize it, but either way I'll get
from the series 'The Spectre of Theatre' © Victor
What is your project 'The Spectre of Theater'
The series consists of self-portraits, where I'm in disguise or
wearing make-up to create these alter egos. For years I have
photographed characters, finding them on the streets, but now I
often become those characters, playing with the idea of being them,
or something like them, by using theater like settings. Some of the
images are influenced by black and white film noir, thrillers and
early David Lynch. But this is a loose self-portraits series,
because there are several images that are not me but i wish they
were. Then there are other photos that look like others but are
from the series 'Remember When You Loved Me' © Victor
from the series 'Remember When You Loved Me' © Victor
How about the project 'Remember When You Loved
This one of my more psychological projects, and is based on
coming from a dysfunctional family, which means it is based on love
and how that love is unattainable and how there are certain people
we wish we had love from. It extends from childhood and my parents,
like I haven't seen my father in ten years, he is an incredibly
lonely person and basically sits in a room by himself with severe
depression. I don't do that, but instead have the drive to
illustrate loneliness and isolation in my photos.
from the series 'Down In The Hole' © Victor Cobo
What about 'Down in the Hole'?
I began this series around 2003 in the tenderloin district and
the underbelly, the fringes of San Francisco. I came from a middle
class background and was just drawn to this side of life which i
didn't experience growing up. So the work is based on that
adventure and the efforts to enter a world that were foreign to me.
There are more self-portraits in this work, as in general I
consider all these projects like a diary, in terms of the way they
are put together. The isolation, the loneliness, the desire to live
a life not considered normal middle class American, I enjoyed
throwing myself into these situations and in a sense I became what
So there are pictures in these projects that are from
your life, that might not have been taken in the same place or
during the same time but just seem to work together?
In general these projects are based on a sort of lyrical song,
where the pictures work together abstractly, they are certainly not
an objective story line. It is interesting when you turn the camera
around and photograph yourself, it throws a whole other context
onto the work while making things deeper and more interesting.
Also, because the subjects I'm working with are part of who I am, I
am photographing myself when photographing others.
Are you then saying that anybody you, Victor Cobo,
photograph becomes a photograph of yourself?
To some extent, yeah. Some photographers say they photograph
what they know, and for example I'm not an illegal immigrant from
Mexico or a heroin addict from the Tenderloin, but I am Spanish and
have experimented with drugs in the past. So there's this aspect of
photographing a mirror of yourself, as other wise why would I be
doing it? It is about a sort of sizing up of oneself, an
identification towards some sort of stability.
Michael Christopher Brown (Foam Magazine #27/Report)