Andres Sanjuan

Andres Sanjuan

PHOTOGRAPHER

Visual Narratives: Andrés Sanjuan's Path to Portraiture and Intimacy.

Sometimes I feel split by the different worlds I inhabit as an individual. I try to reconcile them finding linking threads through my work.

Andrés Sanjuan, a visual artist currently residing in both Amsterdam and Berlin, is an esteemed member of the Photography Department at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy in the Netherlands. His artistic endeavours primarily centre around portraiture, movement and exploring themes of intimacy. At the core of his creative vision lies a profound fascination with life's transient, intense, and boundary-pushing moments, along with the emotional complexities of pleasure and heartbreak.

Andres Sanjuan

Andrés, could you tell us about your journey as a visual artist.

My interest for the visual medium started at an early age. I was fascinated by imagery seen in films I probably shouldn’t have been watching at that age. These caused strong, confusing emotional reactions, and fleeting moments of awe during family trips where I got to spend time in solitude in a state of wonder. It was in my early twenties when I got my hands on a camera and started documenting my surroundings obsessively. Like many others born in the 90s, raised in the digital age, I was drawn into the analogue photographic process. Its limitation and the chemical magic that brings the images to life was so alien and attractive. Not being able to see the images, the wait and anticipation, the heartbreaks when something went wrong, the delight of fortunate mistakes... It added a much-needed layer of mystery and wonder to the already fascinating practice of recording one’s life.

How did you find yourself drawn to portraiture, movement and intimacy in your work?

The work I am emotionally attached to, the work I do for myself, is guided by my curiosity and desire. These seemingly unconnected themes do intertwine in ways I am trying to understand. Sometimes I feel split by the different worlds I inhabit as an individual. I try to reconcile them finding linking threads through my work. My friends, the culture, the dancefloor, life in the city with its beauty and disgraces versus the great outdoors, the people I meet through climbing or trail running, wild camping, spending time in nature, training hard and sharing that effort with others, pushing the limits of the body and the mind versus an inherent interest in the sensual and a strong desire to experiment and look at others experimenting. My stance on the sensual is dichotomic, I find myself struggling to decide whether to remain passive as a voyeuristic non-intrusive witness or rather participate and be an active player. The work I have been making on this front is still in development and am not ready yet to share.

Andres Sanjuan
Andres Sanjuan

When I mention "rebirth," which three artists or works immediately spring to your mind?

Pina Bausch’s ‘Tanztheater’, D’Agata’s ‘Void Explorations’ and Lucien Freud’s ‘Pregnant Girl’.

As an artist based in both Amsterdam and Berlin, how do these cities inspire or influence your creative process and the subjects you choose to photograph?

My experience in Amsterdam is less than ideal. For me, it is a place where I get back to and look at what I experienced elsewhere. I know others are ecstatic about it and really found their space in the city, I find myself wanting to escape every time I get a chance. It is a place for reflection. Berlin, on the other hand, is the place where I feel at home. It is the city where I first developed a life in as an adult. Over the 4 years I lived there, I found a community and it is there where I find my social core. I moved to Berlin looking for answers. Some of which I found but for every answer two new questions arise, one stays in motion.

As part of the Photography Department at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, how has academia influenced your approach?

The academic environment at the Rietveld Academy is absolutely concept-focused. The core of the education is idea development and taking/giving feedback. Technical skill is left to the student to practice and develop. As a result, I am now more ready to defend my work, to articulate the ideas, questions, doubts and aims present in it. These are often not clear, rather just an intuition one follows than a certainty. Being immersed in a group that expects you to share your process and reasoning behind it pushes you to elaborate your own understanding of the work as it happens. On the other hand, being presented work by other students and striving to provide meaningful, productive feedback pushes you to look for different angles, to mediate between objective and subjective POVs and to keep an open mind.

Andres Sanjuan

In your perspective, how do you envision academia evolving over the next three years?

I feel like the way art academies work at the moment is already so distant to what went on 10-15 years ago. The new creative environment, the explosion of new mediums, tools and its democratisation and continuous development has shaken the academic landscape. How does an institution adapt to such profound and fleeting changes? The reaction time seems to not be able to keep up with the development of the real world. As a result, I believe sometimes an institution’s desire to chase the latest fad is detrimental to the students, the academic staff and ultimately to the institution itself. I believe the core of an education could/should be focused on the essential: originating ideas, process development, an understanding of art history, critical thought and fundamental craft/skill work.

Your work often explores the ephemeral and the intense. What draws you to these themes?

Before I started taking photographs, I had always been attracted to intensities of any kind. During these episodes I felt fully present, immersed in each instant. It felt like what life was supposed to feel like, beyond the ordinary life in the city. Usually, these took place away from the city, at least until puberty hit. As I started exploring the city as a teenager, on my own and based on my desire and intuition, more opportunities came my way.

 

By nature, intensity comes in bursts – our mind and body couldn’t take it otherwise. In a cyclical manner, after a flare of intensity, be it a dance, sex or a hard workout... calm follows. Hangover, sleep, exhaustion. These moments allow for reminiscences to take place, to remember, to process, to relive what took place. These are fleeting moments of life at work. Life happening, ungraspable. Like many others at the beginning of their photographic journey, an intuition to capture these moments emerged. Trying to capture the ephemeral, to have proof, something I could trust more than memory which is edited every time it is brought back to our minds. It is clear to me now that the frequency of these episodes, and the opportunity to capture them, decreases over time. It leaves space for more intentional, focused and informed work.

Andres Sanjuan

Trying to capture the ephemeral, to have proof, something I could trust more than memory which is edited every time it is brought back to our minds.

Climbing and the outdoors seem to play a significant role in your life and work. How does your passion for these activities influence your artistic vision?

Spending time with others exploring the outdoors, either climbing or trail running is an essential part of my life. These trips allow me to be in touch with a certain sensitivity that is half dormant in the urban landscape. A sense of wonder to the rhythms and cycles of the natural world takes place. Time becomes secondary, the concept of being productive disappears and gives way to a playful way of being. Things are for the sake of being. And most importantly, everything is independent of any of us. We get to witness, explore, and interact with nature. It feels like a blessing, every time. It influences or impacts my work in many ways. Mostly, it allows me to align my mind and body, to get back to myself. To be reminded of the simplicity and magical nature of the world out there, away from the rhythm imposed by humanity in the urban landscape. It allows me to tune into my senses, to observe, to slow down, to notice more. Perception heightens, it eventually wears off and the need to get back out there arises again.

Looking ahead as an artist, what single word encapsulates your vision for the future?

Wonder. As long as a state of wonder remains accessible in any form and for any subject, I will keep on wanting to capture, explore, discover or understand.