Interview with Jorge Eduardo Albarracin, a multifaceted photographer

Photography
Sep 10, 2020 by Joy Habib
7 MIN

From Bogota to Paris, from Iggy Pop's portraits to his son's, Jorge Eduardo Albarracin's eclectic photographic journey leaves a lasting impression. The Franco-Colombian photographer based in Berlin has been practicing his profession for nearly twenty years... Enough time to witness the great transformations in the world of photography and to build a unique style that goes beyond the boundaries of the discipline. 

As an active player and witness of the last two decades of photography, he has a profound and clear-eyed perspective on the industry. We were lucky enough to speak with Jorge, who was the Berlin Meero ambassador for a few years, about his photographic training, his practice and the many encounters he has had through photography. He agreed to answer our questions and share invaluable insight for aspiring photographers who are questioning the future of their profession. 

Photo Jorge Eduardo Albarracin

Photo by Jorge Eduardo Albarracin

Academic studies in photography and cinema 

It was in Bogota, his hometown, that Jorge took his first steps in photography. Although his interest in the field goes back to childhood (he remembers his first time playing with a disposable camera), university was a fundamental step in his journey. It allowed him to fully explore his inclination for the visual arts: painting, multimedia, and fine arts.

From the get-go, he was interested in both cinema and photography. But photography has the advantage of being accessible with fewer resources: "At university, cinema seemed much more distant and complicated," Jorge recalls. He gave himself entirely to his passion and quickly learned how to develop in black and white. He set up his first darkrooms in his bathroom, first in Bogotá and then later in Paris... 

But even then, cinema was very much present in his first assignments as a photographer: "I had become friends with one of my teachers, Juan Camilo Segura, who suggested I replace him for a few days during a film shoot. I was given this responsibility when I was still very young and so it was a real breakthrough.”

In 2003, he left for Paris. There, he continued his work as a photographer by carrying out assignments for French and Colombian clients and completed his training. In 2007, he received a scholarship from the International Film School of Cuba (EICTV) to develop his Master's project in Film Studies, and during this trip, he produced a photographic series on Cuban Youth. This series earned him the 2007 Paris Match student prize. 

Along with Paris, Bogota, and Berlin, Havana is one of the four cities that have most influenced his work as a photographer. However, Jorge has immortalized many other cities during his travels, in Oceania, Africa, and Europe. In his eyes, travel and photography are intimately linked. The first images to truly inspire him were travel photographs. As a child, they transported him to places, and times he had never visited. Ever since, travel has remained bound to photography in his mind. 

Photo Jorge Eduardo Albarracin

Photo by Jorge Eduardo Albarracin

Photography: a lifelong companion

For Jorge, the main difficulty faced by freelance photographers is the lack of stability. "It's a difficult choice to make because you know you won't get a salary every month," he said.

However, his job as a freelance photographer has offered him incredible opportunities. He remembers in particular his collaboration with the Paris Tourist Office, who he worked with in 2012. The photos appeared on brochures and annual reports. "This was one of my most rewarding missions because I have a very strong connection with the city. It was an honor to contribute to the image of Paris for the rest of the world, especially on city maps which were printed one million times," says Jorge.

At certain periods of his life, Jorge preferred to have more security; working full time in various jobs, including as an Art Director in the advertising industry, working with firms such as Publicis. "This mix of disciplines has given me a lot of freedom.”

His dynamic career path corresponds to his conception of the professional world today: "I don't share the preconceived idea that comes from our parents' generation, which consists of seeing a job as something fixed. Today it is a question of adapting to changing circumstances: travel, opportunities... a pandemic. It's a balance that needs to be found: me, for example, when I was working full-time, I didn't have much time to devote to my art. It depends on the periods of my life.”

 

Jorge sees photography as a long-term companion that is sometimes low-key and whose importance varies according to the circumstances: "I have been practicing photography since 2001. There have, of course, been many interruptions in my photographic work. There are times when I leave my camera alone and examine my archive more closely.

Photo Jorge Eduardo Albarracin

Photo by Jorge Eduardo Albarracin

The Geography of Memories 

A quick look at Jorge's Flickr page reveals an impressive range of photographic styles: portraits, street photography, wildlife, and travel photography to name a few. 

He has tried many different genres, but there are a few that he always comes back to. Street photography and architecture photography are just a few examples.  This Canon 5D devotee (professional cameras allow him to be more technical while shooting) also relies on the camera on his phone to capture beautiful photos on the spot. This way, he is always equipped with a camera during his travels, without having to be burdened with heavy equipment. This allows him to immortalize the remarkable buildings he comes across or poignant and unexpected scenes. 

He has also collaborated with Rolling Stone Magazine which allowed him to combine his two passions, photography and music: "I take pictures as a fan!  It's a great pleasure to witness this fleeting and powerful exchange that takes place between the crowd and the musicians.”

Jorge's favorite pictures to take are of the musicians he admires, such as Iggy Pop, Deep Purple, and Metallica. His meeting with the lead singer of the Stooges lasted only a few minutes, but the memory has lasted him years. During this brief interview, he discovered that the musician had also lived in Bogotá, where he had one of the great love stories of his life with a Colombian woman. For Jorge, his concert photos date back to another time, before the pandemic, when people weren't afraid to mingle with the crowd. These are archives from a pre-COVID past when people were not afraid of large gatherings. 

Memory is a central theme in Jorge's photography. In his portraits, he photographs both strangers and his close circle of acquaintances. "It's all part of the geography of memories... Right now, I'm mostly taking pictures of my son," says Jorge.

Photo Jorge Eduardo Albarracin

Photo by Jorge Eduardo Albarracin

Taking the time for photography

When Jorge was a child, he was very moved by the cut-out photographs of magazines and books that he received from his teacher Mr. Braconnier as a reward. He would look at each photo for a good long time and they had the ability to take him on a journey. "Today, photography is consumed much more quickly.”

Jorge is not against this new fast and connected way of consuming, but he feels it’s important to take the time to reflect, as you would with a painting or a picture. 

When asked what advice he would give to a beginning photographer, he emphasizes the importance of looking at photo books rather than just Instagram "because you can't scroll through a book." He also insists on the importance of the acquaintances that shaped his photographic eye. He mentions in particular Viki Ospina, a great Colombian photographer with more than forty years of experience who has inspired him a great deal and who has become one of his friends. 

You can find more of Jorge's work on his Instagram and Flickr page!

Photo Jorge Eduardo Albarracin

Photo by Jorge Eduardo Albarracin

 

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