Interview by Charmaine Mainoo, November 2013 (United Kingdom)
Your work breaks the mould of traditional fashion photography. It's a refreshing change. How has your varied working background (industrial engineering, fashion design to graphics and photography) influenced your work?
Undoubtedly, either consciously or not, these disciplines, altogether, including painting and drawing, which I used to practice since l was a child, have influenced my work. I think there is no different way to feel and live life, than through your own point of view and experience. In my case, these disciplines have been my means of expression and have driven me to break and blur the boundaries of traditional photography, but none of them are the essence of my work, I am more concerned for the final image and the emotional journey anyone can make through it.
What materials do you use in your work?
Any material that serves to my purpose: canvas, wood, photographic paper, aluminium, surgical tapes, indian ink, acrylic, pigment, watercolour and so on.
Where do you gather most of the inspiration for your works?
Anything can inspire me; from an ordinary, simple, poor, and seemingly superficial thing, to a beautiful, bombastic, psychological and philosophical topic.
One of my favourite pieces is the 'Frida' series, tell me about this?
The Frida series is made up of approximately 30 final pieces, which I shot in 2007, and up to date only 5 of them have been displayed in my exhibitions, so there are many to be seen. l usually avoid trend topics. I had always heard of Frida as a "commercial thing" to explore, so l was never interested enough in knowing about her, though her work was so intriguing to me. Once driven by curiosity, I could know more and got inspired by her entire world, the confusing and contrast life, her disabilities and the high psychological and personal content of her oeuvre which I cite and alienate my way in new compositions full of poems, patterns and symbols.
Which piece of work are you most proud of?
Impossible to define- a new piece is a new creation and as such, it is the object of new interests, new approaches, new experimentation, and each one has its own reason for being in my process. Each finished artwork means plenitude at the time, but is no longer the same once l begin to create a new one.
What kind of creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have when creating new work?
There are no routines or patterns. There is a different kind of connection with each artwork, so an arsenal of new emotions can guide me when creating.
You are officially one of my favourite fashion photographers, along side Tim Walker, Helmut Newton, David Lachapelle and others. Do you have a favourite artist? If yes, what draws you to that person's work?
There are a lot of well known fashion photographers, some of them really creative and unique-but I'm more attracted to artistic movements, painters, poets, writers and any person who makes me see and feel things in a different manner.
Can you remember one of the first things you drew/sculpted/painted/ photographed etc.? What makes it memorable?
Obviously my first oil painting when l was six, a painting of my mother. It was really epic for a child to deal with oil with no professional guide and getting a good result-one year later l began taking private classes.
What's a typical day like in the life of Efren the photographer?
Actually, I am pretty much down to earth, and a family oriented guy. On my days off, I live a normal life, l usually paint, draw, sculpt, read or exercise and stay away from celebrity world and media, which l avoid as much as possible. When working, I keep myself focused on my goal and dealing at the same time with models, makeup artists, producers, stylists.
Do you have any hidden talents?
I sculpt, paint and draw, maybe future exhibitions can have some pieces alongside my photographic artwork
Are you working on any projects that you would like to tell us about?
Currently, I am working on a huge production inspired by Catholic virgins in South America and it's influence on people and also a photographic production in the Colombian countryside and the way transgenic GMO seeds will affect peasants lives and our lives.
What advice would you give to up-and-coming photographers wanting a career in fashion?
I have always approached fashion photography in a different way, so maybe l am not the right person to give advice. l just follow my thoughts and my Latin roots -being Colombian and loving my country has given a special feature to my work -I am not so influenced by the fashionable heiretics, cold and dark aesthetic.