He refers to himself as a “wandering photographer” and, guided by intuition and chance, he produces haunting and melancholic motifs in black and white. With his Leica M6 and his infallible sense for light and composition, Campano transforms the mundane into poetry.
The project is titled The Wandering Eye – why?
I really like to wander around and get lost in cities. I like to travel and see things with new eyes: the hotels in a city, with those rooms from which you can see the city from the window; the shop windows and signs; the bars, each with a different name; the markets and book shops…
Where would you draw the line between a street photographer and a wanderer?
I believe that wandering photographers are guided by instinct – by impulses without a fixed script. They take decisions and choose routes as they go, allowing space for random chance.
How did you come to the idea for this project? And when did you start it?
This project began on the day they gave me my first camera, with which I went out into the street to learn – to learn to take pictures and to learn to look.
As it is a long-term project, how and when will you find an end?
I don’t have an end planned. It will last as long as I last wandering around with my camera.
Your pictures have a very calm, sometimes even melancholic, atmosphere. What do you like to convey with your work?
Though it isn’t my intention, it’s inevitable that the photos have a nostalgic and melancholic component – maybe because of the passage of time and the
transience of every moment, which can’t be repeated. It could be that black and white also contributes to that sensation.
Why do you photograph in black and white?
My preference was for black and white right from the beginning, because it seemed more unreal and poetic. What’s more, back then it was much more accessible for a photographer who was starting out, because you could make your own prints. Colour had to be taken to a laboratory and, in addition to being expensive, the results were often disappointing. However, in more recent years, I’m also really enjoying taking pictures in colour; and I’m not prejudiced against using digital cameras, which are improving all the time and allow you to better control the colours.
You first studied law, then worked in a bank. What was the turning point in your life that made you decide to become a photographer?
I decided to stop working as a lawyer in a bank because it didn’t satisfy me; it didn’t fulfil me. By then, I was already a photography enthusiast. I subscribed to two high-quality photography magazines that presented the classics, as well as contemporary photographers: Creative Camera, English; and Camera, Swiss. I was constantly buying photography books and was becoming even more enthusiastic with every day that passed. At some point, I decided to become a photographer, so that it would be both my way of making a living, and also my means of expression. The truth is, it wasn’t easy at first, but I was finally able to dedicate myself fully to photography. Professionally, I worked freelance for the press and editorial media, and did art reproduction for museums and galleries, which allowed me to also give time to my more personal and creative work.
Do you have idols in the arts or in photography?
I always liked painting and felt drawn to it – especially the avant-garde movements of the 20th century. With regard to photography, I thought Andre Kertesz was very good, very natural. Robert Frank was modern and groundbreaking, and I remember repeatedly looking at The Americans, and The Lines of My Hand. Among the photographers closer to my generation, there’s Bernard Plossu, whom I had the luck of meeting in Paris, just after I’d bought Le Voyage Mexicain, and whom I haven’t stopped admiring and visiting.
How would you describe your photographic approach?
Photography is my best means of expression for communicating with the world around me. Poetry and emotion are always present. I try to capture all those things that catch my attention – that are suggestive and provocative, as though they’re waiting for you to appear with your camera. In summary, for me it’s about enjoying and learning from everything that life puts in front of your eyes.
What kind of equipment did you use? And how did it perform?
Until the end of the eighties, I used different cameras with 50mm lenses. Then, I was at last able to fulfil my dream (the dream of so many photographers) of having a Leica. Mine is an M6, also with a 50mm lens, which I have never since stopped using.
Please complete the following sentence: Photography is (to me) …
Photography has always had a magical component for me: to stop time and then give it life again, with the help of light and your camera. And with a bit of heart; because photographs are gut feelings, a curious gaze, and eyes that are willing and trained to see everything that is around you.
Self-taught, Javier Campano (Madrid, 1950) started working professionally as a photographer in 1975. His beginnings are linked to the Nueva Lente magazine, a publication that broke away from the humanist and documentary view predominating in those times, seeking risky and subjective approximations to the motifs the camera grasped. In those years of transformation, a new generation of photographers appeared in Madrid. They came with marked stylistic differences, but a common interest in portraying nearby worlds, above all the figures and scenarios of the open and plethoric Madrid in which they lived, in a close and and creative friendship with other artists, writers, filmmakers and musicians. Since then, the city and its urban interiors have been the main characters in Campano’s images. He has released many books and has been presented in many exhibitions, both solo and collective.