Drawing with light
It’s a word we hear everyday, derived of the Greek word “photos,” for light, and “graphé,” for drawing, joining to mean “drawing with light.”
It is a relatively new medium in the history of art, invented by the scientifically inclined and capitalized on ever since by the artists of the world, perhaps those creative individuals who found they didn’t have the patience for a paint brush.
One such artist is Albuquerque photographer Armando de Aguero, whose show “Drawing with Light,” will be on exhibit at the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts until Oct. 20.
“I come from an artistic family. My father has a master’s in painting, so I grew up with art,” said de Aguero. “It’s always been in my life. And I actually tried to fight it. I finally gave into it.”
After 11 years in the health care field, where there was no time for art, he made the decision to quit and go back to his original calling. He was introduced to the medium in high school and says he went the direction of photography, which he’s been working at for 25 years, because he’s “impatient.”
“I can sit down and I can draw and I can paint,” he said, “but I get impatient. It doesn’t come fast enough for me, where as with a camera, especially a digital camera, I can see what I captured, at least somewhat, and it’s almost instantaneous.”
De Aguero picked up his first camera — a Nishika 35mm film camera — at age 16 while taking a high school newspaper class. Today, he shoots on a Nikon D200 digital SLR camera.
While he still owns film cameras, he says he mainly sticks with digital today because it’s cheaper and “a little easier to get things done,” and it offers “instantaneous gratification.”
But while he might be in a hurry to see what images he’s captured, he says he has no problem working for hours on his computer adjusting and editing his pictures, even though he admits he still has a lot to learn when it comes to the world of Photoshop.
Mainly, during editing, he plays with contrast, sharpening and levels, but is learning more all the time. In his photo “Elóte,” a close up of kernels on a colorful ear of corn, he says he found a way to create and merge two layers of the same picture in Photoshop, making one blurry to give the image a soft, ethereal quality.
As a creative writer and screenwriter, as well as photographer, there is a certain poetic narrative present in de Aguero’s photos. In viewing his images, one is able to glean an understanding of the world as the artist sees it, which is a colorful and imaginative plane composed of singular moments that speak of a larger story.
“I think everything has a story. And I’m all about story, not just as a writer, but as a photographer,” says de Aguero. “I love to go to cemeteries, old churches. I love old buildings, because there are stories there.
“Cemeteries are fantastic, because not only am I thinking about the person that’s buried, but the person who buried him,” he said. “I even think about what were they wearing, what did they laugh about, what did they say to each other? What did the house look like? How the walls were painted.”
Even the corn in “Elóte” has a story, he says, of who planted it and what their life was like or the cars in the junk yard, who owned them, did they go down Route 66?
De Aguero, who can count his family’s history in New Mexico back at least 350 years, says New Mexico is his favorite subject when it comes to taking a picture.
“I do try not to shoot the typical New Mexico shot. For me, you can only shoot or paint an adobe wall so many times and it looses something if you keep doing it over and over again,” he says. “So I find things that people would typically overlook.”
He uses his photograph “Ravens” as an example, which shows a flock of ravens perched in a bare tree, silhouetted against an orange sunset. He says the picture was taken at Coronado Mall, where he would drive by every day after work.
“There were literally thousands and thousands and thousands of crows nesting in the trees,” he said.
So one day he decided to try and photograph them despite knowing they may all fly away. At first, they were skittish, he recalled, but eventually they settled down and he was able to photograph them. The orange sunset, he says, was luck.
Another atypical New Mexico photo is “Junk Yard Dog” of a dog skull resting against a rusted car hood in a junk yard in Grants that he drove by often for work.
“I take my camera everywhere I go, just because you never what you’re going to see,” he says.
Lately, he says, his new inspiration has come from a book titled “Digital Alchemy,” by Bonny Pierce Lhotka, which explains how to print your photography and digital art work on “alternative substrates,” such as glass, metal or wood.
“You can really print on anything,” says de Aguero. “If the substrate is too thick to run through a printer, you can actually print it on a transfer film and using alcohol gel or gelatin, transfer the image, and that’s kind of what I’m getting into now.”
His image “Santa Niño” was produced by blending two images, the texture from the fender of a car in a junk yard and the actual image of the Santo, which he then printed on aluminum.
“My next goal is to buy a wide format printer because I really want to try printing on these alternative substrates,” he said. “You can print on aluminum foil. So I think that opens the door up to creativity so much. I mean there’s no limit.”
He says even though he has been doing photography for a quarter century, it is only now that he has begun feeling confident about his work.
The creation of his show at the Los Lunas Museum of Heritage and Arts is a bittersweet tale. His cousin, James Fernandez, who passed away about a year ago, was the museum’s director.
“He knew he was dying,” remembered de Aguero. “My family and I went to visit him one day and I was showing him my photographs and he happened to mention that he was trying to put together a sort or a wish calendar of things he wanted to happen after he was gone, and he said, ‘I would love to put your photography in the museum as one of those things I want done.’”
De Aguero says after that, it took him about a year to get ready to have a show.
“It was one of the most beautiful gifts anyone has ever given me,” he said.
-- Email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.