Spotlight: Gabriel Figueroa and the Knotty the Aesthetics of the Female Body

By David Schonauer   Wednesday January 9, 2019

Gabriel Figueroa’s series “Nodum” is a study in landscapes.

The project matches the landscapes of the female body with the desert landscape of Cuatro Ciénegas in the State of Coahuila northen Mexico — one of the few places in the world, Figueroa notes, “to have gypsum dunes, warm pools in the middle of the desert and a marble quarry.” The work was also inspired and influenced by pre-Raphaelite paintings and the Japanese art of rope binding called shibari, as well as other icons from photography and paintings.

“However, as in all creative processes, this project followed its own evolutionary path and the resulting images are the consequence of an organic and spontaneous creative flow,” notes the photographer.

“In this manner, different implicit lines of work can be identified throughout these images,” he writes in his artist’s statement. “On one side, the fantasy of the nude female body, enveloped by the embrace of intricate knots; that surround it and invigorate the eroticism in an open-air setting. On the other hand, the quiet stillness of the landscape echoes the silent submission implicit in the bindings. Yet there are other elements that can be observed: the vestige, the marks, the ephemeral scar, the kiss of the rope as a symbolic element of the interventions on the human body and on the desertic landscape.”

Here are images from the series, which was named a winner of the Latin American Fotografia 7 competition.

Born in Mexico in 1952, Figueroa earned his B.A. in Photographic At from London Polytechnic in 1977 and went on to study with Ansel Adams, Manuel Alvarez Bravo, Arnold Newman and Eikoh Hosoe — all of whom, he notes, remain an inspiration to his work. He has also taught photography and printing at the National University of Mexico and published a series of photo books featuring his work.

Figueroa’s “Nodum” series came about in September of 2017, when his friend, art director Andres Siegel, proposed the idea. The following November, he shot the work with two models — one of Norwegian descent and one of Japanese descent — a very small crew: a makeup and hair artist, a Shibari master, a production manager, an art director, an assistant and drone operator Marco Pacheco.

“The work with Andres went very smooth and he made some very definite calls to give the photos a direction and atmosphere,” says Figueroa, who shot the series with a medium-format Pentax 645Z camera, along with a 45-85mm lens and a 120mm macro lens.

“I did not find any difficulty working with models nor the binding process, although [in the past] my work has been more landscape without human presence,” he says. “I must confess I did not recognize myself doing it, until I spent four months in post production and printing portfolios.”


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