Yurian Quintanas Nobel is a young and brilliant photographer born in Amsterdam in 1983 and raised in Catalonia, where he's currently living and working.
I saw his work for the first time during an exhibition for SFR Jeunes Talents 2014 Award at Paris Photo. A year after that inspiring experience, I met Tommaso Parrillo at Fondazione Studio Marangoni and I was happy to discover that his “Witty Kiwi Books” published a photobook by that photographer that astonished me at Paris Photo.
For this reason I decided to publish a conversation with Yurian for M-mag and to show his project “Happy Nothing”.
Mattia: How did you start taking pictures for Happy Nothing? Tell us about your idea.
Yurian: On one hand I wanted to do a project about the concept of happiness, and how we relate happiness with owning material things. On the other hand I had the desire to travel to the United States. So I made a research to find something that would combine both things. The answer was Salton Sea: an abandoned lake in the middle of the Californian desert, surrounded by some semi-abandoned towns. I read that the inhabitants of this place call it “the paradise”, so I found the perfect motive to start my project.
M: The book starts with a phrase about happiness. How could you define your happiness as photographer?
Y: For me happiness is related on being free to decide how I want to spend my time, and this is what I get with photography most of the time.
M: Let's talk about the desert. You say that “they call it the Paradise”. Do you feel the same way as your characters?
Y: Maybe I would not live there all my life but in some way I found the desert as a paradise. More mental than physical. A place where you can hide from the stress and the troubles of the big cities. A place with less rules, with less control.
M: Who are your favourite photographers or artists? Who has influenced your work the most?
Y: There have been many. Musicians, filmmakers, painters, friends, family... I think the referents change as you grow up. The last thing I have found very inspiring is the film “Hard to be a god” by the Russian director Aleksei German.
M: Some of your images remind me to Michelangelo Antonioni's movie "Zabriskie Point" and other road movies. What's your relation with cinema?
Y: When I start a project I think as if I’m making a movie or a storyboard for a movie. With Happy Nothing I started with this idea of happiness in the middle of nowhere, but the feelings that the place transmitted me and the stories I heard from people changed my reality, so I ended up making a kind of modern western. I use more the ideas that come out of my brain than the pure reality.
M: Can you describe your choice about light and tones in Happy Nothing?
Y: I used this bright tones to express a sensation of happiness, of freshness. But when you look at the subjects it feels like they are uncomfortable, as if something strange is happening in this quiet place. I also used flash to emphasise the strength of the sun that is so present and some times cumbersome in this kind of environment.
M: Tell me about Marta (the readers can find a dedication in the book) and her role in your project.
Y: Marta is my girlfriend. We lived in a caravan in the middle of the desert for one and a half month. She helped me a lot. Some times when I asked the subjects to take a picture they asked me if I could take a picture of them next to Marta first... Marta never said no because they were nice people and she is too, so eventually she helped me interact with people, so finally some of the pictures came out thanks to Marta.
M: Can you tell us something about your next project/book?
Y: I recently published a book with two friends. It’s a collaborative work called “Origen” and it’s a mix between reality and fiction. It will be available soon on our website www.socarreledicions.cat. I’m also working on the edit of my next book “Indago”, a story about man and nature, life and death. Hopefully, it will come out soon.