“Stick to your guns”.
The notion expressed above serves as a starting point in a conversation with Fabini about his photography practice. If we defined artist differently, then there might be a wide variety of categories for people that work with the same media. Fabini could be also defined as a humanist as well as a visual anthropologist who recognizes the dimensions of the human image within past and present societies. Or maybe radicalist. One who had to purge art and politics, find them a new or right principles, starts with a manifesto and a blank slate. Talking to him definitely felt like sloughing off my acquired knowledge and going to drink at pure springs, clinging to first roots, in order to send history off again in a new direction.
Cultural heritage and historical memory are two elusive concepts that do not escape his own photography- the uses and customs of the land The Man who Treads Upon especially. For him North and South America have been home to a network of rural societies and for certain if there are any boundaries between art and in life, this New York-based artist, wants to blur them, but he is not out to break them per se. He’s actually the opposite; conversations flow with Luis. It’s relaxed, like a siesta in the “campo”.
I photograph from a place of editorial freedom. And yes there is something that cannot be tamed, it’s vital to keep evolving.
I think it's also very visible in your photography. Maybe you can start by telling me, how did you get involved in a Gaucho project and why did you decide to photograph them in the first place?
It is difficult for any photographer to find a subject matter that he can become passionate about, one that will nurture him. “Gauchos,” came to me during my meditations. I dug into my memories like an archeologist, excavating my earliest recollections in Uruguay, where I spent summers on an estancia-- galloping across the open range, the smell of the horses, watching the sunrise, the bonfire, the “asado”. The life of the gaucho was a mystique through which I could reconnect with my roots – the ritual of drinking mate, the rough hands and face marked by years of hard work, the profound silence in which he lived.
Do you getmore enjoyment out of capturing a chance encounter, or out of carefully constructing a scene?
My joy comes from relying on my intuition; from making contact with my subject, calling it a human being, an animal, a tree or a rock and harnessing the natural light. In this way, I delve into work welcoming the unexpected. I find the momentum within my heart, without ever over- powering my subject. You have to let life take over.
There‘s a rhythm in everything, I immerse myself in situations where things are happening.
And that´s the feeling I get as an observer when looking at your photography.This people that let you in.. they didn´t feel awkward in your presence. It felt very familiar and it felt like you´re just presenting what´s in front of you, without stimulating or telling them how to pose. They are just there and feeling very comfortable with you. And I think that sort of comfort you can only create with people that are your own. I think that with Uruguayans / Gauchos, maybe because you are also speaking the same language, they felt untroubled with you.
Human beings have much more things in common than differences, we all have families, lovers, friends, feelings... I approach everybody with respect and authenticity. I make myself available, I love to cook and share a meal with them.
Manhood, travelling, age, power of nature seems to be the most prominent topic of your works. What is your view on gender?
I am all for gender equity. I am shooting my project “Harvest”in Peru, in many family run farms women are the ones in charge.
These days living in NY you shoot quite a lot of industrial spaces as well, I saw some factories, bridges...
I used to have my studio in an old industrial building in Brooklyn. One winter, I ended up living there in between trips. It was one of the coldest winters ever in NY. From my window I saw the power of the blizzard hitting the Manhattan bridge and decided to dive into it.
How did you find yourself in NYC?
Love and work. I was shooting my project Gauchos in Uruguay and my photo lab was in NYC, so I travel quite often in between with loads of film in my bag. I met my wife at that time, she had a place in Montevideo and NYC. I could come and go easily.
What about working with analogue or digital cameras?
I switched to digital a few years ago and never looked back... The tool you choose is up to you. The important thing is the work, not the camera .
Let's talk about creativity. What inspires you? Are these people? Moments? Weather? What makes you feel like ...ok today is a great day to travel or to take pictures of my neighbour.
It’s a mystery and hard to explain. Everything is alive, everything matches and is connected, there’s a natural rhythm everywhere and I love wandering intuitively.
In terms of the body of work, what makes the difference is consistency and determination, you have to persevere if you want to move forward. The aim of my photography is to put the intangible back at the center of our attention, to bring awareness despite distance, race and language differences
So you were very much self-taught….
I was never part of a system, probably a reaction to my diplomatic family. Schools are good for some people not for all. I always choose to go off the beaten track.
How can you trust yourself ? What if other people are telling you, oh that's not good enough.
You have to be a rebel. Years ago Robert Pledge told me to stick to my guns, best advice ever.
It's a very brave decision.
It ‘s inherent to the work, necessary if you want to cultivate your own voice.
What drew you to photography in the first place? Your dad? Was he a photographer as well?
My dad was an aficionado and he liked to explore, slide shows on weekend nights were a family get together. He offered me a camera when I was 7 years old before we embarked on a road trip from Lima to the jungle crossing the Andes
Books by Luis Fabini :
´Gauchos”- self-published book, 2012 Uruguay
“Cowboys of the Americas” - published in 2016 by Greystonebooks
Text by: Marta Marszalek
Interview with Luis Fabini
All photography rights reserved to Luis Fabini