Photographer Rodolfo Choperana doesn’t shy away from experimenting with his medium. Overland Art Program Curator, Tamra Collins, recently sat with Rodolfo to discuss presentation, quality, and the potential allure of repurposing old works.

Rodolfo Choperena is a self-taught photographer from Mexico City living and working in San Antonio. His work includes a unique photographic process that combines performance, long exposures, movement, and manipulating light sources to capture ephemeral events as digital images. Each piece presents a view of an alternate reality, thus challenging the definition of photography. Rodolfo has exhibited his work nationally and internationally, appearing most recently at Gama Gallery in Istanbul, Turkey, for his exhibition titled Fifty. Other exhibitions include The Wave at Artemisa Gallery in New York, NY, and Interventions of Light in Cinnabar Gallery, Lima, Peru. Rodolfo is also known for receiving the Hasselblad Featured Photographer of the Month Award in September 2013.

What inspired you to become an artist? Who or what might have influenced you?

Rodolfo Choperena: I have been involved with art since probably 1995. I have been supporting artists; I have been supporting institutions in San Antonio; and I’ve been trying to promote contemporary art in San Antonio. At that time, I didn’t think that I had any sort of artistic talent. I couldn’t paint. I couldn’t draw. I couldn’t do anything. I could cook. I couldn’t dance. I couldn’t sing. Promoting my artist friends I think was the most important thing in my artistic life at that time. When I discovered the technique for long exposure and movement to not overexpose my films, that’s when everything changed.

Your work outside of the medium of photography is still very photographic, talking about interpreting your photography into hand-knotted wool and silk rugs, in particular. What drew you to photography, and how do you continue to explore with this medium and other mediums?

RC: Well, for me photography, like I said before, is the only form of self-expression that I think I have, since I couldn’t draw or paint, even though I’m painting now. I think photography is just like touching the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much to see; there’s so much to experiment with. And, yes, concerning other mediums, the photograph can be translated into other mediums like rugs or textiles. There’s a very fine line though between going from a hand-knotted wool silk carpet to a shower curtain. It’s very difficult to not be cheesy. You have to be very careful and not go mass produced. I think quality, high quality will always be a limiting factor, and if we’re going do something, do it the best quality possible. If I’m going to make a carpet, instead of having it mass produced in China, I’m going to have it hand knit and hand done in Nepal. I think that’s where we have this little safety net between going cheesy and going not cheesy. Photography lends itself to being overdone and overthought. Like iPhone covers. At first it was, “Oh, how cool I want to have an iPhone cover of that piece.” Well, yes, but I think it cheapens the rest of the work. I don’t know, it’s something that I believe.

It’s good to care about your work and how it’s perceived and how you want it.

RC: How it’s presented. Presentation is key to this. A beautiful photograph, when it’s produced cheaply, it loses everything. You have to go high quality.

The work that you present is very abstract. You don’t appear to have a specific agenda when you are presenting your work, or a message that you are intending to be received by the observer. How do you interpret your work? How does this compare to how others interpret your work? Is it important that the observers respond a certain way to your work?

RC: No, on the contrary I think everybody is going to interpret it their own way, especially with abstraction. There is no message currently in my work. Basically, what I like to produce are things that when I see them will cause certain parts of my brain to fire and those parts of my brain usually are the parts where pleasure happens. When you eat something delicious or when you see something gorgeous. Could be sex, could be so many different places in so many areas of your brain that get stimulated by these energies. That being said, for me it’s very important to not only have the right color but the right texture and the right combinations of color and texture that will bring this up.

What’s next? What do you have going on now?

RC: What is next? Continue to shoot. I’m going to continue to shoot, I’m going to continue to experiment. I am playing with tiles and basically printing directly on ceramics via direct sublimation. So, I’m going to work on a ceramic floor. And I also am thinking of turning the interventions of light series into perhaps something three dimensional.

I’ve been following you on Instagram, and I’ve seen you playing with this idea of tiling.

RC: Of the tiles, yes.

Which is very cool and so it sounds like you’re moving from abstract photography and working your way through different mediums. How has your practice over the years changed to accommodate these different mediums?

RC: Well, it’s changed because I have so much material. I don’t erase any photographs as bad as they are or as bad as they could be. I keep everything just because you never know. What I hate today, I might love 10 years from now. My camera is broken, so I cannot shoot anymore right now for three or four months. So, I’ve gone back and looked at old stuff and thought, “Oh, this could make a really good tile,” or “this could make x”. “If I crop this this way,” the image totally changes. I’m going back and looking at stuff that I’ve done for the last eight years and seeing how I can work with it now, which is perfectly fine. I don’t miss my camera one bit. It’s perfectly fine to do this.

Do you think that when you get your camera back that you’re going to start pursuing different things in photography?

RC: There’s no rules here so I basically do whatever I want, whatever I feel, wherever I have a thought that I want to develop and expand. That’s where I go. I have a couple of thoughts; I have a couple of things that I would like to shoot that I haven’t shot before but it’s nothing that keeps me up all night. I have plenty of material to play with. I have plenty of stimuli here. [chuckle]

What’s your dream project? What would be like, “Yes!”

RC: Dream project would be to be able to do probably… a collaboration with an architect and do a huge building and do everything.

Getting in early…?

RC: Getting in early like we talked before. Definitely an exterior component and an interior component. My dream would be an interior component that really goes hand in hand with the architecture of the place. Where the best of the architecture and the best of the arts comes out. That would be my dream project.

I know I’ve asked you well over four questions, but I do want to ask one more. What do you see is the benefit of overlapping architecture and art?

RC: I think when it works, it’s a synergy. It’s one plus one equals five. It’s basically that. It brings out the best of both when it works.

That’s great. Rodolfo, thank you so much for coming in today. Do you want to mention how people can check out your work?

RC: My website, rodolfochoperena.com, is the best way. That’s where I keep everything up to up to date.

 

For more about Rodolfo Choperena, visit his website

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