“Photography and Reality”—An in-depth interview with Joan Villaplana

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On 30th of March, a lecture themed on “Photography and Reality” was held at Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, with Spainsh artist Joan Villaplana being the lecturer. Using a wide selection of works as examples and embodiments, he presented how art critics, such as Susan Sontag and John Berger, interpret photography, as well as introduced the interactive relations between reality and images.

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Wang Shuai, chair of Art Department of TAFA, introduces Joan Villaplana. Photo by Huo Shuai

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Joan Villaplana gives his lecture. Photo by Huo Shuai

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Students listen carefully to the lecture. Photo by Huo Shuai

The lecture also discussed ways of combining the knowledge of photography with practice, which are quite conducive to academic studies for photography major students.

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Joan Villaplana uses his work “Metropolis” as an example. Photo by Huo Shuai

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Joan Villaplana being interviewd by Global Photography. Photo by Huo Shuai


GP: You have given quite a few lectures in China. How do you think about Chinese photography?

Joan Villaplana: I do not know a lot about Chinese photography. But I have attended Pingyao International Photography Festival twice. I think there are many interesting things in China. What I really love is the photo which is full of various elements of the East, especially elements from Chinese traditional arts. It is completely different from western photography, and also a good way to show China’s rich history and vibrant culture.

GP: According to your experience of teaching at IED Madrid, what are the common problems that photography students have?

Joan Villaplana: For photography students, they always have two choices. One is to be an artist, the other is to earn a living with it. This is a big problem we need to deal with. We are in an era when photography is changing dramatically. If we have the same mind as in the old time, it will be very hard for us to survive. Everybody has a mobile, and he can take pretty good pictures with it. So what a new photographer needs to do is to shoot with their own language, combining with new technologies. Some students often limit themselves when they focus too much on using equipments, and ignore to express meanings of their works by using photography language.

GP: You just mentioned that nowadays everyone takes pictures. We often get questions from people who want to be a professional photographer. Do you have any advice for someone who wants to pursue a career in photography?

Joan Villaplana: Actually it is also about what you choose. If you are busy with getting money, and work in a company many hours a day, you may not do anything special. Only if you have enough time and great ideas, you can create nice things. The only way to be a professional photographer is to read and create arts as professionals. A professional needs to look for inspirations, so give your art some time.

GP: When did you realize that you finally “make it” as a professional?

Joan Villaplana: Well, I was born with photography. My grandfather was a photographer at the beginning of 1900s. So was my father, my sisters and uncles. I contacted photography almost at the beginning of my life. I studied humanities which is a branch of philosophy. I decided not to take any picture, but just to read books during the four years in the university. However, after I finished my education, I realized that I was not up to make philosophy and few new things were able to be created only with philosophy. Then I became a “prisoner” of photography. For me, photography is not a choice, but a destiny.

GP: Is there any key to make a name for yourself?

Joan Villaplana: There is only one key. Work! Many artists and professionals are building their brands. I think this is not a trend which will lead us to a good future. If you are a successful photographer, you do not have to say it by yourself, and your work will prove it. It is my point of view.

GP: What quick advice do you have for our site members of Global Photography?

Joan Villaplana: Always learn and work, and keep producing. Show your works when you are really proud of them. Do not build a brand of yourself.

GP: What are your next arrangements in China?

Joan Villaplana: I am going to give a lecture at Beijing Institute Of Graphic Communication on Friday. Then I will go lecturing at several universities in Hohehot. After that I will leave for Barcelona and Madrid because I work for several universities in these two cities.


Joan Villaplana Casaponsa (Manresa, Barcelona, 1976) works in photography and video.

Graduated from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra of Barcelona in Humanities, he teaches aesthetics and Fine Art Photography in the European Master of Fine Art Photography at IED (Madrid), Elisava and IDEP (Barcelona). His work has been exhibited in the China Pingyao International Festival of Photography, The Central European House of Photography (Bratislava), Lumen Foundation (Budapest), Fotofestiwal (Lódz), Kaunas Photo Festival and PhotoIreland.

Villaplana’s book Metropolis was a nominee for the best Photobook award in The New York Photo Festival, 2008.

He has also contributed in newspapers and magazines such as Le Monde Diplomatique, La Vanguardia, Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Il Corriere della Sera, Prensa Libre, Surface, Etiqueta Negra and On Diseño.

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