Miguel-Angel Sanchez : “I try to create big stories out of small characters”

   |  16 February 2012  |  AMA  |  Tweet  |  LinkedIn

Paris 15 February, Art Media Agency (AMA)

Photographer Miguel-Angel Sanchez will be showing his work at the Inception Gallery in Paris until 25 February. The exhibition entitled “Alma del Mundo” has been very successful. The artist responded to a few of our questions.

Art Media Agency: You have created 110 photographs, 23 of which are currently on display at the Inception Gallery. Do you consider the entirety of these creations as one single work of art?

Miguel-Angel Sanchez: Yes, this is exactly why my wife and I came to Cairo. We read every one of Naguib Mahfouz’s Nobel Prize award winning books. These books created big stories out of small characters. I am trying humbly to do the same thing—to choose characters, not necessarily the noblest ones, but the most symbolic and interesting ones in order to tell a story about Cairo. It’s also why the exhibition is called, “Alma del Mundo”, Soul of the world, to highlight this element which unifies all the photographs.

AMA: When were these photographs created?

MA.S: I worked for two years; so I began well before the start of the revolution. It takes all photographers about two weeks to choose the lighting and the setting. I already knew most of the characters before I used them as models. I lived with them, I went to weddings, funerals, I drank tea with them. I didn’t want to just say, “Hey, come to my place, I’m going to take your picture.”

AMA: Why did you choose this style of lighting for your photographs? What’s the significance of this play on light-and-dark?

MA.S: I was inspired by 17th century Spanish and Italian paintings. It’s not just the lighting, rather the ability to make “secrets” of the photo come alive because of the lighting—like on a treasure map. This is obviously pretty difficult to do in photography, it’s not painting, we can’t just do whatever we want.

AMA: What helps you decide between a full-length shot and a tight shot for your photographs?

MA.S: It depends on the character, on the model. For Amm Rabia, the park’s security guard, there’s only his face because I wanted to portray things as I saw them everyday, sitting in the street and looking for the sun through the trees. I really focused on the model, on the character, on what inspired me, rather than on the framing of the photography itself.

AMA: Some of the photographs are clearly influenced by Christianity. Why did you make this choice?

MA.S: This is a very important influence for me. Just like the 17th century painters did, I used it to combine myth with reality with the help of symbols. My models are Arab, Muslim, Coptic…I take elements from these religions in order to stage my photographs. “The Mother of the World” represents a singer from the South of Egypt and I portray her as a Madonna because for me, she is the link between “before” and “during” the revolution.

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