Camila Falquez Choreographs Life in Debut Exhibition ‘Body of Work’
“I was alone with my camera in this huge crowd, watching Senegalese wrestlers in the sand. I shot during the sunset.”
In her debut solo exhibition, “Body of Work,” Camila Falquez examines the ephemeral nature of body movement. Our physical relationship with the environment is one expressed by motion, she says through her photography. We move in reaction to the outside world. Posture is a shaped manifestation of emotion, impossible to suppress. The collection is as varied in location as it is in approach; from studio work in New York, Barcelona, and Paris, to landscape and street shots covering the Western United States, Colombia, and Senegal, too. Changes in topography, though, only reinforced her attention to form. She sees body shapes atop mountains, gestures reflected in the sea. “The whole beauty of the world is within us,” says Falquez.
“Body of Work” opens tomorrow and will run through September 11 at Picture Farm Gallery, in Brooklyn. Having just returned to New York after shooting in Japan, Falquez seems happy to be home and rest. She’s not one to plan a trip more than two weeks in advance, and she’s hard-pressed to say no. “Any opportunity to jump in an airplane, I will,” she assures. “I invest all my money and time into travel—I basically have zero savings.”
Falquez found herself in Dakar, Senegal after being invited to shoot a lookbook for the fashion and art collective, Art Comes First. After finishing the campaign, and despite a bout of traveller’s sickness, she stayed behind, for two weeks, exploring the city streets with her camera in tow. In the pictures she brought home, a portrait of Dakar emerges in soft hues amidst changing light: golden sun rays flood a woman’s shoulders, children on the streets jockey for space with outstretched arms, grown men interlock limbs in competition on the sand. What interests Falquez most is a person’s dynamic relationship with their surroundings—simple as it may be—how someone leans in a chair, how they pick something up. Possibly the most striking pieces in “Body of Work” are the photographs of Senegalese wrestlers at sunset. The sculpted finesse of men beneath a pastel sky illuminates the fundamental artistry of an athlete, something often lost to spectators in the brute physicality and constant action of contact sports. “I was so shocked by the beauty that I was seeing,” recalls Falquez. “I didn’t even realize what would come out of it, but it was really connected to my studio work.”
Though the exhibition displays only personal projects, Falquez is also known for her work in fashion, having shot for labels including Louis Vuitton and Hermes, as well as publications the likes of Harper’s Bazaar, L’Officiel, Purple, and Open Lab magazines. In fact, Falquez first considered the prospect of shooting professionally after joining Scott Schuman, whom she considers a mentor, as a photographer’s assistant on his famed street style blog, The Sartorialist. Passive, candid shots from a distance do exist in street style photography, but the genre is more broadly recognized for its sidewalk portraits—snapshots minus the say cheese. “I would literally stop people in the middle of the street,” says Falquez, “but there is only so much you can ask from a stranger beyond look at me.” Her work in Dhakar, a place suspicious of cameras, took a less invasive approach, more an observation of people as they moved through the day. That’s not to say, however, that the collected shots in “Body of Work” are that of a documentarian. They are, rather, products of a dancer’s eye.
Falquez says her aim is to show that beyond color, beyond sex, that our bodies paint shapes, that we are beauty in and of itself. The manifesto is not meant to be a piece of reportage in some journalistic sense but, instead, a projection of the artist’s way of seeing her world. “Maybe I’m a frustrated dancer,” she admits. Falquez grew up studying ballet and contemporary dance, but she stopped short of dedicating her career to the form. The daughter of a Colombian visual artist, Falquez was raised in Barcelona within a context in which beauty was expressed aesthetically and through the body. As student of dance, she was asked to place her foot in a certain way in order to make the leg looks longer, or to open the chest as to fix an expressive posture. “I would be asked to move my arm just a centimeter up or down, it was so precise,” she remembers, not realizing at the time that this would someday guider her journeys in photography.
“I was too expressive for my dance teacher, I was way too much information,” she says with a smile.
“I didn’t ever dance in the end, so I’m obsessed with how the body moves. But not in just any way, I’m very particular in the poses and situations that I pick. I’m not portraying how people move culturally. What I’m doing is moving these bodies and showing through my eyes how I see movement in their body.”
“Body of Work” also includes portraits of Greek and Roman marble figures that were shot in Florence, Italy. Falquez is taken with the stone avatars, and how sculptors were able to capture movement in such a soft, perfect way. “You have to have such a strong body conception to have made those sculptures,” she says. “It’s the elevated version of what I do.”
Falquez came to New York, from Barcelona, five years ago for a three-month workshop in film. Video work does seem a more obvious medium for an artist creatively driven by the body in motion, but to Falquez, only in precise static moments could her eye be satisfied. In the studio, with a naked body, she molds her subjects like a dance instructor seeking angles of expression. On the streets, without such exacting control, she choreographs in reverse, with her eyes alone. Her photography, so like the marble figures she admires, are delicate compositions. “You can catch this really tiny moment and draw lines,” says Falquez. “Photography expresses that tiny second.”
“I only shoot what attracts me, it’s not every movement. What came as a surprise is that the dancer is still inside me as a photographer. That is the way I see the world and this is the proof.”
‘Body of Work’ runs September 8-11 at Picture Farm Gallery in Brooklyn, NY
see more at camilafalquez.com and on instagram