Diana Beltrán is a native of Bogotá and has participated in the city’s art scene all her life. After studying fine arts at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia she relocated to Madrid, where she received a master’s degree in photography from the Escuela de Fotografía y Centro de Imagen. After returning to Bogotá she took part in countless group and solo exhibitions as well as art fairs. She currently teaches photography at Zona Cinco and, in addition to photography, works in the media of video, sculpture, and drawing. We spoke to Diana recently about her projects shown at SLIDELUCK Bogotá II (see above). Diana also contributed a series titled “Underwater” to the most recent Slideluck in Bogotá in October of 2014.
Slideluck: First off, were you able to attend SLIDELUCK Bogotá IV? What did you think?
Diana Beltrán: I attended SLIDELUCK Bogotá II, but I wasn’t able to make it to this one because I was in the middle of the Sincronía art fair. It seems like a very interesting project to me, something that is very well-received among artists and fans of photography, as well as the general public. I love the potluck element, though I think it can be hard to get people to cook for the event.
SL: What do you think about the art scene in Bogotá?
DB: Right now we’re experiencing an artistic boom. That is to say, there are so many things happening: exhibits, fairs, events, and proposed projects by young artists and experienced ones alike. I feel that many people at the global level have their sights on the Colombian art scene.
SL: “Upside As If Down,” I assume, is a series of portraits of people hanging upside down. It’s such a subtle effect and not always detectable, but I don’t know if I would recognize it if it weren’t for the title of the series. How did you come up with this concept? And how did you achieve the effect?
DB: Yes, the models were hanging by their feet. The idea was to hint at their condition without being explicit. When coming up with the title, I did some research and found that “upside as if down” was the original way of saying “upside down,”‘ so that’s how I gave the hint. In the shot I didn’t want referents or agents that revealed the truth behind it all. The knowledge and relational capacity of the spectator ought to be enough to get it.
The idea for this series came from Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s series, “Heads“, in which the models were unable to pose and were in fact unaware that they were being photographed. So I tried to think of how I could get rid of the quality of falsity that arises when a model knows they are being photographed. I saw a painting from the Middle Ages depicting a man hanging by his feet from a tree and thought about those basic human instincts – when you’re hanging facedown, experiencing discomfort, you can’t pose.
SL: Your website references the Baroque style for this series. I definitely saw Caravaggio in some of the photos. Was this something you aimed to recreate from the beginning?
DB: I really think it was something accidental or subliminal in my mind. What I was really trying to do with the lighting was eliminate any hints that would show that the subject was upside down, and I wanted to show the face coming out of darkness as if something were being hidden. When I saw the first image I immediately thought of Baroque painting and I liked the concept even more.
SL: In “Deferred Spaces,” I wasn’t always sure if the model was actually at the location or Photoshopped in. Can you speak to that?
DB: This series is a sequence of self-portraits and speaks to the condition of not belonging to a place, the quality of a foreigner who never manages to be from a different place than the one they grew up in. I’ve had this same experience myself on my travels. I wanted to disassociate the body from the background, from the space, and I thought of a blur, where the body disappears and the space remains clear. The photos are taken with a tripod, focused on the background with a slow shutter speed. In the case of the photos in museums, I had to take two photos: one at high shutter speed of the space and another at slow shutter speed with my body in motion, keeping the same framing. The two images were combined later in Photoshop.
SL: Is there any particular reason you chose a female model for this series?
DB: They are self-portraits based on my own experience. It was very difficult to be the photographer and the model in such a technically complex series. I had to explain exactly how to do everything to my assistant, since I was the one to frame the original image.
SL: Any other projects on your horizon?
DB: Yes, I’m very interested in using flash at night on natural subjects. The way their volume in space is changed and the mystery that it generates. I am also developing a project of “horror photography” in gif format. I might combine both these ideas in one.
Currently I’m working on photography in assemblage. I want to take photography off the wall and bring it into the third dimension, with cutouts of the photo suspended by pins. This series is called “Suspended Points.”
SL: Anything else you’d like to share?
DB: The important thing with ideas is to see them through, no matter how simple or silly they seem. What is most important is how you develop the concept, which is what I strive to instill in my students.