An Interview w/ Gonzalo Benard

     Nails.  Guts.  Whiskers.  Mud.  Forgotten byproducts of life are bought to light once again.  Organic materials are reintroduced as a artistic medium.  Removing color and polish from his art, photographer Gonzalo Benard reunites us with the structures that supports our beauty and our lives.  Bone.  Bark.  Blood.  Birds.  His work reconnects the human condition with our larger ecology.
     I recently had the pleasure of having a conversation with Mr. Benard, I was very surprised to find him very inviting and giving of himself.  After gushing about how inspired I was by his work, he became interested in seeing what I'd come up with if he sent me some images; the result was PLEASE

To experience more of his work, purchase his book:

With his permission,
I am able to indulge my readers with a text of our conversations...


Forbidden Light: What did you think of "Please"?

Gonzalo: I really like it. Gut written

Forbidden Light: I like the sound of that: "Gut Written" what does that mean?

Gonzalo: Written with the guts...with feeling. Written in and with flesh.

Forbidden Light: I love that notion..."Written in and with flesh", that's what I get from your photos...its very visceral...Metal and skin...Organic material and darkness

Gonzalo: Yes, that's it: gutty, visceral...That's the way I do my photography as well.

Forbidden Light: So all of your photos you've shot yourself? Of yourself?

Gonzalo: I do it all: create, shoot, model, make up, editing.

Forbidden Light: That is so great!

Gonzalo: Do you do photography too?

Forbidden Light: I would like to...I am a big fan of photography, but my glasses has gotten in the way! But when I buy contacts, I'll really get into it

Gonzalo: Sure. I use contacts. Much better

Forbidden Light: You have big beautiful eyes, by the way. They must've been fantasy-like when you were a child.

Gonzalo: They were bigger than my face when kid! I hated so much that time when all my mother's friends and ladies saying: oh such beautiful eyes your daughter....LOL...Guess that I got bad mood from those days.  That's why also I made my voice lower and very mannish to be able to answer them: "I'm not a girl!"

Forbidden Light: What color are your eyes?

Gonzalo: Pistachio: green inside and honey outside.

Forbidden Light: That sounds so beautiful...That must be why you shoot mainly in Black & maintain your gritty style.

Gonzalo: Colours and clothing are distracting elements.

Forbidden Light: Interesting! I've often felt the same way, seeing a lot of mediocre artists get away with beautiful models...but maybe that the pretentious side of me speaking.

Gonzalo: No, you're right... I was thinking the same today. such great models, awesome guys and girls... and so bad photographers. Yes, too easy to show work with cute boys...people don't look at photography, they look to the models.

Forbidden Light: Its unfortunate, because I am so jaded by beauty these days. It doesn't have the same glory it once had...

Gonzalo: That's why I shoot nudes and b/w, as colours and clothing can be distracting. Also beauty... nowadays you have thousands of cute models who make the photo... I don't want to show a portrait of a cute one, that would be too easy and meaningless. That you can find in thousands of photographers. A photo should contain a meaning, a story. It should contain something more than just a superficial beauty. 
You can take a photo of a rose or you can take a photo of its roots: the first one is beauty, but the roots are the ones which will feed it.  I like to feed and be fed with my work. A rose is seen like it is. A root, will make you think.

Forbidden Light: I agree wholeheartedly, art should carry a meaning, something to interpret.  I get that from your work, I feel as if there's some hidden messages in your work.

Gonzalo: My work is full of messages and symbols as I always found curious to work with them, most of the times not in a obvious way. Traveling a lot, especially to lost cultures where you meet different faiths, cultures, rituals, rites, etc, gives you some attraction to symbology. And having some doses of irony, this comes to reflect in my work as well, as I do it honestly. My work is then a mix of ironic messages with symbols.
     Talking about human nature and how humans relate with it. Gender, fetishes, animal and human behavior. Though, most of the symbols are not that obvious, but once the work comes usually bit strong it's supposed to make you look into it a second time and if possible the viewer to get lost in it. Only this way will you be able to find all the symbology.

Forbidden Light: So what inspires you to create?

Gonzalo: Human nature. Always the best inspiration: the more you know people, the more you'll get inspired. When I'm listening to some music I need to know who's behind it, I need to feel it, and music can inspire me a lot. Dance also, when you see a ballet dancer, feeling the music, the rhythm, the can put yourself in it and feel how he's feeling. So many times dancing over and with his own frustrations and traumas, like a composer, a musician.
     Now go out to the country side and open your senses alone in the middle of nowhere... You see animals and plants living and co-existing together. You can feel them living, their own issues. Put yourself in your 4 "paws" and go meet some sheep, talk to them, act like them. Feel them. Feel their fears, as you can feel other fears. Feel other people fears now. Feel their own traumas. Dare to feel your own. Now mix everything like if you're a plant next to others, to roses, to cactus. Merge yourself with a woman's soul, a horse feeling, a chicken's posture. Try the cages. Try open them. Feel the reactions. Love them all. And live it. Be a tree. Be a woman. Be a Goat. Being yourself.

Forbidden Light: That is quite profound, to experience oneness in nature.  I'm understanding your portraits a little more, you are capturing yourself as you explore your connections with other living beings.  Profound!  

Gonzalo:  In a future, I'll have some more exhibitions showing my work worldwide. Touching souls. Biting others. Slapping dreams. Resting minds. Caging moments to let them free. After that, I hope that someone will put some good seeds mixed with my ashes for me to grow as a perennial tree in a virgin forest, to feel the roots around me, to feed it all, to be fed. To be exposed to thunders, rains, warmness and moonlights, seat for falcons or robins, trunk for wolves to pee. To feel living life without thoughts. Without conscious. To be there.


Eduardo Guize said...

Great interview, thanks for sharing!

ToddyEnglish said...

Neat. This interview really gave me a better understanding of his work. Too ugly to look at but too beautiful to turn away.
Very primal and abandoned yet constricted (due to the metallic aspect of some of it).
Love the way he empathizes and communes with nature.
I'm feelin it.

Forbidden Light said...

@Eduardo: I'm glad you enjoyed it! Thank you for taking the time to read.

@Toddy: Another great interpretation! I've been really drawn to "The Ugly" these days; the anti-beefcake...

Check out his website, his self portraits are awesome!



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