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Spraygraphic interview

Updated: Jul 8, 2020

Spraygraphic, an art and design community website, interviewed me recently for their sprayblog.

And Chicago Art Magazine has hilighted the Chicago Art District’s 2nd Fridays as their weekend pick, so if you’re in Chi-town… no excuses!

Interview with Photographer Xavier Nuez

SG: Please tell us about yourself. Where do you currently live and work?

XN: Live and work in Chicago, IL

SG: What mediums do you work with?

XN: I’m a photographer. I still shoot film – medium and large format – it blows away the best digital out there.

SG: What kind of equipment do you use?

XN: I work mostly with old (50 years old) Hasselblad cameras – I have several 500C’s and an SWC

SG: Describe your working process when creating a new work.

XN: I have several bodies of work, which all require completely different approaches. For my Alley series, I typically know before-hand of a run-down neighborhood I want to explore. These locations are in cities across the country. Right now I’m researching the South Bronx for a possible Spring shoot. At night I’ll go out with my equipment and walk down beat up alleys, or around abandoned buildings, bring with me lighting equipment. These images are a combination of long exposure (sometimes over one hour) and my own lights. I also try to bring a friend who can watch my back because I’m usually in unsafe places.My bug series is entirely different, although the work is related conceptually. In both bodies of work, I try to elevate the bottom of the barrel (space or creatures) to monumental status – a sort of repositioning of their social status. I try to glorify the most pathetic and lowly bugs. It is a very theatrical series - I build little sets, light them with strobes, and find the right bug for the part, trying to create heroic and iconic figures. All my bugs have a name and history. There are war heroes, movie stars, powerful villains, tragic figures etc

SG: What kind of things do you do when you get blocked or find it hard to create something or simply uninspired?

XN: I can spend stretches of time not shooting if I’m not in the mood. Sometimes I forge ahead anyway and have found that creativity usually comes back with effort.

SG: Where are you currently finding your inspiration?

XN: My little bugs are inspiring me these days.

SG: What do you look for when you are picking models/subjects to work with? Is it a physical feature? colors? spacing? structure? Personality? Photogenic? etc…

XN: I feel I’ve hit the right nerve when an image triggers feelings from my youth – feelings of awe for the dark and mysterious.

SG: Do you bring your camera with you everywhere with you or do you leave it home when you go out on the town?

XN: I always have a little digital camera with me, but these days who doesn’t? In my first 10 or so years as a serious amateur, I carried big gear with me everywhere. I constantly looked for images. I think this was essential training for me, allowing me to see today what a finished photo will look like (in a 2D space) before I shoot it.

SG: Where has your work been seen?

XN: My photographs have been featured in solo and group exhibitions in museums and galleries throughout North America, including the Marin Museum of Contemporary Art in California; the Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts; the Museum of the Living Artist in San Diego; the Farmington Museum in New Mexico; ArtSpaces at Stanford University in California; the Schneider Gallery in Chicago; the Peak Gallery in Toronto; and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC.

SG: Where will it be seen next?

XN: A solo show of my Alley images will be at the Indianapolis Art Center opening June 18, 2010

SG: What is your dream art assignment?

XN: I would love for an art patron to fund a trip throughout Europe to shoot alleys

SG: What is your favorite color?

XN: As a child it was red. Today they are all my favorite

SG: Who is your favorite photographer? And Why?

XN: There are many, but I seem to gravitate toward the old street photographers of the 40’s and 50’s, like Robert Frank and Henri Cartier Bresson. They were my first photography influences, and although my work is vastly different and more conceptual, I still feel their influence. There are no people in my images, and yet they are all about people.

SG: What book/magazine are you reading this week?

XN: I’m reading The Corner by David Simon and Ed Burns. This was the book that ultimately lead to the HBO series The Wire. It details a year in the life in a drug-fueled, run-down Baltimore neighborhood.SG: Where is your favorite place to hang out?

XN: Any dive bar

SG: Any final words of advice?

XN: If you want to be a full-time artist, you’d better really want it. There were many times in my early years when I struggled to pay the rent. An evil little voice kept trying to push me toward more practical employment, but I didn’t want anything else. In the end it worked out. Its essential for most young artists to find a way to supplement their meager art sales with regular work. If at all possible, try to find something in a related field so you learn while you work. Commercial photography gigs were my bread and butter for years, and before that, I worked as an assistant to the pros, all the while creating my art.

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