Let’s start with a fact that is almost evidence: every day we see more photographs than our ancestors, a hundred years ago, saw in their entire lives. The following data is enlightening: it is estimated that in 2018 more than 300,000 photos were published on social networks per minute. Third fact, perhaps a personal appreciation: taking photographs does not make you a photographer. It takes years of work (Henri Cartier-Bresson used to say that your first 10,000 photographs are always the worst) and a talent that is sometimes cultivated and sometimes you have. In Spain, where art grows in trees, we have some of the most interesting masters of the camera. Such is the case of Eugenio Recuenco, born in Madrid in that historic May 68. A student of Fine Arts who had an instant crush (could we say it was a flash?) With the world of the image. More than 25 years have passed since its first click !, a quarter of a century devoted to an art that goes far beyond the selfies that we flirtatiously take before the mirror. And it is that, of the person or the portrayed object, being an accomplice of their vulnerability and their mutability. It is a testimony of the irretrievable, of what Susan Sontag said, taking a photograph implies participating in the mortality that was and ceased to be, and at the same time a way of immortalizing an instant and making it eternal. Almost nothing.

Eugenio Recuenco has a smile on his mouth and that sparkle in his gaze that reveals a trained eye, one capable of seeing what is invisible to others. But, for him, photography is a participatory art, almost a dialogue. “Photographs come to life with the heartbeat of the viewer,” he says. He began creating paintings in which he combined painting and photography, but soon his vocation became clear. It was in the late 90’s when he started working professionally, focusing his career mainly on catalogs and magazines. Among them, none other than the queen of fashion magazines: Vogue. “It’s interesting to see how Vogue’s personality varies in different countries,” he says, “each with its peculiarities and its way of doing things. But, above all, the artist’s vision and his creativity always end up taking priority ”.

When his career began to take off, he did not lack proposals from abroad. “There was a moment when everything started to fuel and the calls started coming in. And it was clear to me from the beginning: my destination had to be France. I went to discover new markets and soak up other ways of doing things ”. In Paris, the city of lights, love and baguettes, the doors of some of the biggest fashion houses in the world were opened to her, from Yves Saint Laurent to Loewe. But one of his first commissions, which he remembers with special fondness, was a collaboration with Nina Ricci. This is how the photographer explains it: “It was a very special experience, I hadn’t made an announcement before and they called me with no other baggage than my photography. Nina Ricci was in a delicate moment and her commitment to me was as strong as it was risky. They understood what I could contribute in terms of creativity and creation of worlds. And the experience went very well, it was even considered the best advertisement of the year in France ”.

Photo: @winaxfotografo

Eugenio Recuenco’s career advances like an unstoppable avalanche, sweeping wherever it goes. Nothing can resist him, from staging the opera Les Huguenots at the Fisher Center in New York to directing a video clip for the successful German band Rammstein. He explains it with a simplicity as acute as it is devastating: “I like the challenge, the new experience. What I already know how to do, does not call me ”. His adventures have taken him to places like Berlin (“if France was a commercial and advertising boost in my career, Germany was on a more personal level”) or Shanghai (“I am fascinated by the interactive concept that Asians have of art”) . But what is perhaps his most ambitious and personal project to date, he presented it in a seemingly less exotic place, but without a doubt closer to his roots: the Tomás y Valiente Art Center (CEART) in Fuenlabrada. It is her magnum opus: 365 Heming.

“365º is a personal work that I started there in June 2010 and opened in November 2018. A job that involves three hundred and sixty-nine photographs -one for each day of the year plus 4 additional-, 8 years of work, 120 models and a team of 300 people ”. Critics have been unanimous in praising the work, but for Recuenco the true value lies in the public that attends to see it. “I wanted the installation to be an experience, all in backlit boxes, and it was exciting to see the response from people. Nearly 90,000 visitors attended CEART, an outrage considering that the exhibition is located in a city almost 30 kilometers from the center of the capital. From there she traveled to Vitoria, where almost 40 thousand more people were able to enjoy the installation. “Vitoria was phenomenal, each place brings a new layer of meaning to the work and here it became a kaleidoscope, a labyrinthine space. The boxes take over the space, they have their own light ”. From Vitoria, she went to the Camera Work gallery in Berlin (“one of the most beautiful exhibitions, an enveloping installation”). And from there, to cities like Taipei or Shanghai, where not all the works could travel “due to the issue of censorship.”

Photo: @winaxfotografo

365º continues to circulate on the Asian continent, although approximately half of the works that compose it are stored in Europe waiting for the pandemic to subside and life to return to normal, old or new. But waiting idly is not something that characterizes Recuenco, who is already working on his next project, a macro-exhibition that will make the previous one seem small: The Thousand and One Nights. “If 365º is an experience, a sensation in which the observer brings his own experience, in Las Mil y Una Nights we go a little further. There are 1,001 photos in which I tell my perception of the world. I no longer take photos thinking about whether they are pretty or ugly, but to express a point of view. I advance with the same speech, but with more freedom. It’s going to be a monumental, overflowing thing ”.
Incidentally, you have a photograph taken twenty-five years ago on hand. “Look,” he tells me, “that a woman is pictured with a surgical mask from that time. I had always seen it as a representation of death, but I never imagined the meaning it would take on so many years later. There are things that became personal, small, and I have found a way to support them to grow ”. It’s funny, I tell you, how time alters our perception of the same work. “That’s right”, Recuenco emphasizes, “when you capture strange or absurd behaviors that we carry out in our day to day life, if you don’t frame them at a specific moment, they become universal. They are revealed in a different way ”.
I think that an overflowing creativity like yours, in order to grow, needs to enjoy absolute freedom. And Eugenio Recuenco, who largely agrees, nevertheless gives me a nuance: “The problem with creativity is that it is taken as a symbol of non-responsibility. Most of what I have learned has been thanks to those clients who have not allowed me to do what I want, because that encourages me to find solutions. When they give you full freedom, on the other hand, it is when your own responsibility and the ties that you impose come into play ”.
It is an immense luck to have Eugenio Recuenco, not only in this column but in our country, in general. An essential artist who, through his photographic lens, reveals new aspects of the world to us. As Diane Arbus said, photography is a secret about a secret, and the more it reveals, the less you know.

Text: Alex Merino Aspiazu

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