Summer, sunshine, water and love – in his intensely colourful project, the Leica photographer looks at the concept of paradise as a place in life where you come together with family. Water is the element that binds all the images together: it allows the viewer to have his/her own projection of dreams and longings.
What does paradise mean to you?
Paradise is my life flowing through my family and friends. It’s about my daughter becoming a woman; about my son becoming a man; about my wife growing beautiful and proud in our midlife; about our friends and the lives and hopes we share; about me enjoying all that, getting older and recovering the thread of past summers into a story flowing into the future. Something to be worthy of and live for the rest of the year, hoping it will last forever, like paradise.
Where did your pictures of paradise originate?
Conceptually, when I realised after several summers and escapades shooting my family, that the images looked very much like my own subjective memories of those moments, whilst carrying a continuum that was somehow annoyingly interrupted by the rest of the year. Formally, they are, of course, anchored in the colour street photography tradition of the late 20th century, but I experimented a lot with both content and form.
How important is paradise or the idea of paradise for the viewer today?
It is, I believe, quite a controversial concept, and I’m sure there are different angles to it. On the one hand, opposing my Western tourist privileged enjoyment with the hard work of many people making it happen; or the growing inequality and anxiety even within Western societies. On the other hand, the religious paradise concept, which exists in many or most religions in one form or another, might be dimmed today by the importance of the now and immediacy in our society. I do believe, however, that paradise is the place where you share joy with your family and loved ones, which, in my view, is quite universal.
Your images evoke longings. To what extent is your series dreamlike?
100%. I see the images and I feel they are a good representation of my memories and all the subjective elements from those moments. Almost like living them again: the sounds, the temperature, our moods… And I’ve tried to encourage that in the edit, selecting the images that reinforce that feeling.
What is your photographic process? What were you looking for in your images?
As always, I believe a photographer ultimately looks for himself/herself in his/her images. And if you consider the whole process of a long, ongoing multi-year project like this one, as a photographer you are also looking for something alive and organic along a trajectory: where you come from and where you are going. Family and our loved ones are also probably the most important thing for many of us. It’s where you can get full access as a photographer, which is perhaps the most difficult thing to obtain. So if you put all that together, the process and images in Paradise might probably want to answer who I am for and within my family, and where is life taking us all.
What is the function of water as an element in your images?
It weaves everything together. It’s the fabric that connects the images – being present in most of them one way or another –, and provides many with their dreamlike projection. Like floating memories. It also represents the place where we get together as family and friends to reconnect and rejoice – now that many in our family, for instance, live apart from each other because of studies or work – after the whole year working and being apart, alone, like individual islands on solid ground.
What was your experience with the camera – also in terms of “water photography”?
Enormously satisfying, because the Leica X-U – which I’ve used for almost all images – provides me with the best of both worlds. First, the ability to retain the joy of my traditional Leica shooting experience: all the pictures are shot on manual mode, because I always felt that the process of shooting with my Leica was as much fun as the result; it actually forces you to think about what you are feeling in a shooting situation, and how to best represent it. And the playfulness of the X-U’s underwater ability; it’s always great to take that plunge with the X-U around your neck, and play with refraction and the dreamy perspectives.
What meaning does colour have in your pictures, and to what extent is colour itself also “paradisiacal”?
To me colour – and, in a broader sense, form, including geometry and light in composition – is as important as content. You can have a great moment in the wrong light, and to me it might not be as evocative as a yellow wall against the blue sky, or a red dress on the grass. Again, I think it is very subjective and depends on everyone. Even colour is not approached the same way by different colour photographers. To me, in particular, colour has to be bold, primary and at the service of feelings and emotion. It directs how I shoot and my camera settings, and my choice of places to shoot; to me it’s what makes a good picture. If, on top of great colour and form, you manage to wrap a moment in it, then to me it makes a great picture.
There are different ideas of paradise. Do you highlight your own idea of paradise with this series?
Absolutely. Life flowing through my family and friends. Now. Not when we’re dead. Or rather, as it has been, is, and will continue to be when we get together to rejoice in each other.
Víctor M. Pérez (Madrid, 1972), is a photographer born and based in Madrid. His images and photographic language express the longing of presence and belonging, and are taken mostly candidly in public places and streets all over the world. His Alive At Midlife self-published, book dummy, was shortlisted at the 2017 Photolondon/LaFabrica competition, and exhibited at Somerset House in London and the Spanish National Library in Madrid. Solo exhibitions include a selection from Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere, at the Leica Gallery Milan, a project which was also featured in Leica Fotografie International (LFI) magazine. Find out more about his photography on his website and Instagram page.