Carlota Guerrero: The Solange collaborator on femininity, performance art and her new book
What links Arca, Rosalía and Solange together? (Asides from enviable musical talent and creative vision, of course)
Well, it’s less of a what, and more of a who: a Spanish photographer called Carlota Guerrero, who’s today (27 April) sharing a dreamy and skin-hued selection of photographs featuring all three artists, as well as hundreds more of her lesser-known works in her debut book Tengo un Dragón Dentro del Corazón (which roughly translates to I Have a Dragon Inside the Heart).
The new book features over 250 photographs lifted from various projects, platforms and eras spanning Guerrero’s decade-plus-long creative journey, with a particular focus on works created in her earlier years. There are editorial images shot for magazines like PAPER Mag and Numéro Berlin, stills of a performance piece entitled Orgy from Art Basel Miami, as well as her groundbreaking collaborative work with Solange for 2016’s A Seat at the Table. (Guerrero worked with Solange on the project’s artwork and music videos. She also shot its powerful cover imagery.) Inside Guerrero’s debut, you can also read a selection of texts from some of her past collaborators: poet Rupi Kaur, for example, as well as Rosaliá and fashion designer Paloma Lanna.
In its entirety, Tengo un Dragón Dentro del Corazón is a carefully compiled and comprehensive deep-dive into the Barcelona-based photographer’s career so far, as well as her ethereal and emotionally-led signature. It weaves a thread between Guerrero’s preferred disciplines – be it her love for filmmaking or performance art – while also showcasing her themes: nature, gender, femininity and sexuality.
We caught up with Guerrero to talk about where she looks for inspiration, how she stumbled across her approach and the projects that have surprised her along the way.
Solange, A Seat at the Table, 2016 © Carlota Guerrero
How did you discover that you had a love for photography?
It just happened. It was a natural tendency since I was a teenager. At this point, if there is something I still conceive as a total truth is that I came in here with the mission to communicate through images. I make compositions when I am thriving, I am those compositions – and many times I feel like I do not choose them, but they choose me.
And how did your work evolve into performance art?
My interest increased more and more towards what could happen in the physical scene – instead of the photograph itself. I am hugely attracted by the performance world; it is where I find most of my references – in performers, more than in photography. It has been so important in the path of my career. Now, I give more importance to what is happening in real life than to the documentation itself.
Who have you collaborated with previously?
Paloma Wool, Rosalía, Solange, Arca, Rupi Kaur… dearest friends and incredible artists that I’m so lucky to share space with.
What is it about collaborative work that you find inspiring?
[L-R] Arca in collaboration with Carlos Sáez for PAPER Mag, 2020
Alejandra and a lily, 2017 © Carlota Guerrero
How would you define your approach?
I would describe my art and approach as a photographer as trying to create timeless images that portray the things that touch my heart, things that I think are important, and the energies that make me feel inspired. My work is an inventory of images that come to me; I cannot rest until I make them happen.
What have you learned about yourself through your work?
I’m still learning so much. I feel like sometimes I become my craft. I am a very emotional person and most of the time I am trying to deal with my complex emotions while portraying these images. I am using art as a healing process, making an inventory of images with all the things that give sense to my existence.
Rosalía, Aunque es de Noche, 2017 © Carlota Guerrero
Is there an ethos or statement that you wish to express through your art?
Fractals, connections, mantras, eternal ideas.
Where do you look for creative inspiration?
In God and in nature. I feel I get all my inspiration from opening my channel and receiving all these ideas and information that are floating in the air, in the trees and sea. I open myself and I get images and scenes – I cannot rest until I portray them. This has not changed since I started photographing.
What is femininity to you?
Femininity is a miraculous energy. Depicting women was an unconscious decision that became extremely conscious after years of repetition; it is something genuine and instinctive.
[L-R clockwise] Alejandra Smits for This is the Place I Call Home, BON Mag, 2017
Alva Claire for Allure, Conde Nast, 2018
Phillip Lim, 2019
Women of My Life, Barcelona, 2020 © Carlota Guerrero
How has your style evolved and shifted over the years?
I’m doing the same [thing I did] eight years ago but with less fear of darkness and less fear of sex.
Your use of colours and your tonal palette is very unique to you. It’s very soft and dreamy with brighter colours used quite sparingly. How did you decide on this palette and how does it connect with the wider messaging of your work?
Mixing colours feels chaotic to me. I may overcome this feeling at some point but I’m still learning how to use three colours at a time…
[L-R] Caos/Creación for Paloma Wool, 2019
Four Red Merging Bodies for Numéro Berlin, 2019 © Carlota Guerrero
What inspired you to put together Tengo un Dragón Dentro del Corazón? And how did you approach the curatorial process of the book?
I photograph similar compositions, subjects and scenarios over and over without thinking. I realise later on [that] this behaviour makes me think of a blooming orchid that doesn’t know she is doing so. I make compositions when I am thriving, I am those compositions, and many times I feel like I don’t choose them – they choose me. This book is an essay about my repetitive patterns, and I curated it by tracing a map of them.
Filming Cranes in the Sky, 2016 © Carlota Guerrero
What’s been the most challenging project, shoot or performance that you’ve worked on?
Orgy – the piece I directed at Art Basel in Miami last year. 30 people performing a symbolic orgy in front of a crowd. [It was] the strongest energy that I’ve ever directed – the performance became real and it shocked me. This was right before the pandemic and now it feels like a surreal experience that would be something impossible to achieve these days.
Which project, shoot or performance surprised you the most?
Working with Solange. We spent months working together, travelling from New Orleans to New Mexico, Austin and Dallas in a van [while] shooting for A Seat at the Table, and years later for When I Get Home. We also went to New York to shoot the cover for the album. I was very inspired from her way of working from the beginning. She is such a strong, talented hard-working woman. She has a very strong and clear vision, but also gave me the space to have a strong and clear vision, and taught me about the BLM movement in deep. I’ll be forever thankful to her.
Sacred Bond for Chantelle, 2019
Tengo un Dragón Dentro del Corazón is out now