Spanish photographer Oriol Jolonch considers himself to be self-taught, although he did study design and photography in his home city of Barcelona. Photography was a constant presence in his house because his father and grandfather were both avid enthusiasts of photography. ’I sort of grew up surrounded by images’, Oriol says. So it was only natural that he also became interested in photography and images in general. His interest in images was used to express invented realities from his youth, which came to life through an old airbrush he inherited from his father. ’I used it for my first ’artworks’: small pictures to illustrate the front of old cassettes and some posters that I had kept for years.’ He has won numerous awards, among them the FEP European Professional Photographer of the Year award in 2011.
After shooting on film in the beginning of his photography career, it was the digitalization of photography that seduced him to re-create his outer worldly experiences again. ’I felt I could put together my two great passions and release my imagination without limitations, playing with the laws of physics, time and space. It was irresistible!’ His urge to create other universes was nothing less than inevitable, inventing alternate realities that reflected on a possible reality. These surreal images are the fruit of his imagination, some of them studied and pondered upon in detail, while others are products of a small flash of clarity that hits him some times. He tries to give expression to fixed images without any plans or forethought, a type of free fall approach to creativity. Oriol wants to make people stop for an instant and observe his image, perhaps pay a little more attention, question themselves or even imagine a story that could be behind every scene. ’They’re free to interpret their own reality – I just want to confuse the spectator by introducing them to a world between reality and fiction.’
His ’XXI Century Stories’ could be called an evolution of an earlier series: ’Invented Realities’. The second series of images started from isolated ideas, without anything in common. ’XXI Century Stories however do have a common denominator, yet the productions process is the same. He imagines a story, shoots the photographs he needs and edited those into a final image. ’Ideas always arrive in unexpected ways, but usually touch upon mythical or historical subjects and are very abstract. Normally I draw a simple sketch and develop it from there. Sometimes I park the idea and come back to it later. The strange thing is that even though they are thoughtful works and I follow a process, the images also come together spontaneously.’ For Oriol it’s just like planning a big trip; you try to tick all the boxes on the list, but can never be sure about what will happen or where you’re actually going. That’s what’s makes this method of working a magical experience for him.
The context of Oriol’s images in his ’XXI Century Stories’ series is very diverse. One called ’Children of Men’ looks like a scene from Monthy Python, ’El Faro’ is more poetic and ’Exodo’ is self-explanatory. ’That one is about a better way to life, in a place where the sun always shines. However, you could also interpret it as a search for one self, of personal evolution.’ The disturbing image of a woman plant symbiosis ’Metamorphosis de Una Dama’ is an allegory of indifference. How something beautiful in the beginning can transform into something sinister. It forms a harsh contrast with the beautiful image of a flower called ’Flor Encendida’, Oriol’s tribute to the inspiration and awakening of the senses. ’All of these images are basically representations of my thoughts, concerns and daily humanscenes through history. The image ’El Faro’ is a very personal interpretation of the journey of Ulysses, about the vital journey each of us has to undertake to meet Ithaca. They’re metaphors, but are open to personal interpretation. I like how an image can have several meanings and the viewer can select their own.’
By using old photographs as the basis for his images, Oriol tries to transmit a very special feeling that these images represent. ’The older they are the more they seem to be alive’, he explains. ’The sepia tones and distressed structure has always fascinated me. They form pieces of history trapped on a piece of paper and it looks like they are talking straight to you. Through their texture the scenes emphasize the idea of immortality. I wanted to play around with the contradiction of the title of the series and it’s old appearance. It’s actually a very simple game I’ve played.