Conversation with Trinidad Carrillo published in the second issue of 1000 words magazine (November 2008).
Naini and the Sea of Wolves
I recall myself attending a dance school for children. There was a door, always locked, with the word “photography” on it. One day I knocked, I was let in and never came out.
Somewhere between Lima and Göteborg, Trinidad Carrillo’s “diaries of dreams” entail a wonderful, quasi-mystical moment, in which the chasm between the past, the present and the future collapses, and life unexpectedly assumes a significance beyond everyday reality.
It is the moment when word becomes image.
Natasha Christia: In “Naini and the Sea of Wolves” the intersection of pictures and text produce an open “fairy tale” sequence beyond any determined image or word. What is the meaning of this special synergy for you? How do the poems of Sara Hallström complement your work?
Trinidad Carrillo: While working on a project, besides the images, I usually have an invisible title in my head that progressively takes shape. I feel a bit like a director cutting a film. Then Sara’s texts bring a totally new dimension to my work. Her lyrics operate like images. Rather than focusing on the documentary element of my sequences, she interprets and turns them into her own, walks from one picture to another, watches closely and becomes familiar with all the characters. In this sense, both images and text in my work are immensely poetic –something pretty much like a song.
NC: How did this particular collaboration with Sara begin?
TC: As a teacher, Sara had been looking for pictures her students could write about but failed to find anything interesting until she by coincidence came across a show of mine in 2005. When I first read her texts, I felt like someone had understood my work in a very beautiful way. So we started cooperating. This is the third text she writes for me.
NC: Your book revolves around a highly self-referential subject matter, your daughter. How much did this help you gain personal awareness and build a relationship with your characters?
TC: I have difficulty separating my work from my personal life. They have been intertwined for a long time. When we decided with my publisher that the book should be about my daughter, I began thinking what she meant to me. How would I put my love in a little book of 32 pages? My work did not start with Naini’s birth, but back in 1997 or probably earlier! Beyond it, there is a bigger story going on about the braiding of time, realities, people and places. In all these years, there have been new people coming in, children born, friends and family passing away. All of them are very close to me. They are my actors, my accomplices. A friend recently wrote that she loves to be my doll, to obey as I tell her to do this and that. It is as if I were playing. My daughter knows that. We even had a conversation when I explained to her that taking pictures is mum’s favourite game. And she’s totally in for it. Apart from a mother and daughter relationship, we are building a relationship through photography. She even became involved in choosing the pictures for the book! She has her favourites that HAD to be in it!
NC: How much of reality and fiction is there in your work, then?
TC: Some of my images are staged, some are not, some are half way, difficult to remember. But, what does it matter when in the end everything turns into a memory? My photographic representations might be fictional, but so are dreams. My first memories derive from dreams I had when I was three, a period I am not supposed to remember.
NC: Indeed, your work is primarily concerned with time. Still, rather than taking upon the notion of a frozen moment, both the portraits and the blurry transitional stills in-between your sequences produce a peculiar effect: the condensation of the past, the present and the future in the form of “presence” and “absence”. Your subjects seem to live in many parallel times through a constant flow back and forth…
TC: You know, I moved afar from my mother and Peru when I was 12. Due to this, there is a natural constant longing within me to be in two places at once or in some other dimension where all is there. Being conscious of time, thinking about what happens next, preserving the best of the present… Sometimes my pictures unveil actual facts of the past. But, there are moments when they enable me to “play” with my blurry childhood –reviving the memory of preoccupations, feelings or thoughts that once concerned me.
NC: Is perhaps this notion of childhood as awareness what renders children in your work such complex personalities in their own right? Look at Naini! By being closer to birth, she seems to be closer to what we adults struggle to recover. She carries all the mystery and magic of life in her gaze!
TC: To me, a person is all his ages at the same time. Therefore, I do not approach children any differently than adults. I try to see in them something I recognize. They are mirrors, many of which are totally new and unknown to me.
NC: What about the mirroring of the future then? When looking at your work, I can’t help contemplating a moment after many years when Naini will come back and see herself projected in these images.
TC: Who knows what happens! Maybe one day Naini herself will pick up a camera and turn it towards me. I constantly ask myself if it is right to expose her. I had recently a conversation with another artist who used to photograph her daughter but stopped. When the girl grew up, she asked her mother, "Why did you stop? I loved to play with you". I believe this is how it’s going to turn out with me and Naini. The only difference is that I won’t stop!
NC: Trinidad, where does the name Naini come from?
TC: It came a long time ago out of a dream. After some research, I discovered that “Naini” is a Hindu Goddess. According to the legend, she fell in love, was rejected and was thrown down to earth giving birth to a lake. I was expecting somebody to carry this name, even if not necessarily my daughter. But it turned out to be her! When I first held Naini, my first thought was “Souls exist. You have been somewhere before." Then, I fell in love forever!
Naini and the Sea of Wolves
By Trinidad Carrillo
Poem by Sara Holström
First edition published in 2008
Winner of the Swedish Photobook Award 2008
All Pictures: Trinidad Carrillo
Text by Natasha Christia
All Rights Reserved.