Silvia Grav is a 19 year old photographer from Pais Vasco, Spain. Currently living in Madrid, Spain, Silvia spends almost 100% of her time focusing on her work as an artist.
Silvia’s work is best described as “surreal”. Some would classify much of her work as creepy, strange, or scary, but these creations truly takes conceptual photography to new heights. We have seen the technique of combining multiple exposures many times before, however, Grav has a knack at combining elements of nature (waves, stars, clouds) in a way that is just captivating.
Join us as Silvia shares with us her list of favourite artists, her incredible process of editing shown with side by side before and afters, and what could happen if you don’t chase opportunities. Silvia Grav is absolutely inspiring and this is an interview you won’t want to miss.
How did you become interested in photography?
I remember that this always caught my attention, but until I bought my first camera four years ago I couldn’t see the millions of possibilities of expression that a photograph has. It started as a fun game. Then like an obsession. And now an obsession and my work too.
What’s on your gear list? (camera gear, editing software)
I’ve got a Canon 5d, sigma 50 mm 1,4. I only use Photoshop for editing.
Do you have any formal training in photography?
Principally I have learned as an autodidact. I only studied one year in the university, but learning there was slow and/or impossible. Besides that, it stole almost 100% of my time and I couldn’t take pictures. That year I ended up very frustrated so I left it.
What inspires you?
It is different, what inspires me is the engine that moves me to do things. Trying to be brief: All can inspire a photograph: Conversations, music, films, people, other pictures, anything. On the other hand, the necessary motor to start making a photograph, will always be pain. I need to lean on it. This can get quite insane if it is the kind of work that feeds you. It’s a kind of vicious circle: To make photographs I need pain, the pain makes me find relief, and I only find this relief by making photographs. I don’t know if I explained it well. The final result of the pictures when they are made of pain and not by an obligation is clearly visible. So this process is worthwhile.
On average, how long does it take you to create a piece of work?
From one hour to several days. But it depends on the process that I choose.
How would you describe your style?
I never quite know how to explain it. Aesthetically, I love analogue photography- dirty, scratched. I’ve been obsessed with the black & White that old photographs possess since I’ve discovered photography, but I don’t know why. I see very clear when I find beautiful imagery, but I ignore why I’ve acquired my style. I think that this is unconscious, a set of many influences that are impossible to differentiate.
When creating a photograph, how do you aesthetically make the decision of whether to keep it in colour, or change to black and white?
Most of the time I shot in color, I love it. But then, in Photoshop, my brain automatically imagines the picture in black and white and I can’t remediate it… I always fail.
What’s the most meaningful photo that you’ve ever created?
I think that this is the hardest question of the entire interview. This is as difficult as choosing if you would want to be more like your father or your mother within five years. In this case it’s like choosing from 20 mothers and 20 fathers. Between 3 or 4, it could be this: (seen below). This was my first collage, and with it I discovered how much I liked this technique. Also, I did this for a very sad and beautiful time of my life, and looking at it reminds me of a lot of beautiful things.
How do you come up with these (literally) out of this world ideas? And, do you sketch your ideas before shooting them?
I could write a book explaining the million ways to work that I have. The most usual way is to collect, as a Diogenes syndrome, all the materials that I can. Self-portraits, people in the streets, skies, landscapes, textures…
Then, when the vicious circle appears and the anxiety makes me feel the need to take pictures, I grab my camera (sometimes to make specific ideas or experiment with it), looking for all the materials that I have, I open Photoshop, and it all starts.
Besides photography, what other types of art do you pursue?
Video, drawing and collage especially.
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on the covers of many musicians (One of the best parts of my job). Preparing my first solo exhibition in Spain, it will be for 2014, and I’m immersed in some videos and projects that I can’t yet reveal.
Who are some of your favourite artists and/or photographers?
Artists who are alive: The photography of Elizaveta Porodina, Katrina Spectre, Ryan Mcginley, Martin de Thurah. Maykel Lima; the collages of Sammy Slabbinck, Francisca Pageo; Illustrations by Shaun Tan, Gérard DuBois, Teagan White, Pawel Kuczynski, Pablo Auladell,… and many more.
What is your proudest moment as a photographer?
The first time a person wrote to me to tell me that my photographs had made her cry. She thanked me. I never imagined that I could do something like this with photography. I ended up crying too…
Please tell us about “RESET; foundation Cruzcampo”?
This was a great opportunity for me. It was the first time that I was exposed in such a big place. I had total freedom, with the theme, space, materials … In addition, the expenses were paid for by the gallery and didn’t have a financial limit, so I could imagine anything that I wanted, and I had such a hard time deciding between so many ideas . It was great.
How has social media helped with the exposure of your work?
Social networks have been everything to me. Today it is quite difficult to live only by art, and considering my age, it is a miracle. I don’t know how to thank everyone who shares my work every day; I’m here because of them.
What do you hope to say to people with your images?
I think my work is totally selfish. It’s impossible to prevent that the opinion and taste of others influence your work; these things remain in your brain unconsciously. But consciously, I’ve always taken pictures by my own need. It’s a relief for me to give meaning (although the meaning is often absurd) to a life that sometimes I can’t find.
How do you spend your time when you’re not editing or behind the camera?
Right now almost 100% of my life is dedicated to my work. The little free time I have I dedicate to movies, learning how to play guitar, talk to friends… but generally this doesn’t happen very often. I’m too busy lately. A few months ago came an unexpected avalanche of publications and commissions. All of this little “fame” was new for me and this overflowed me. I was very green with all the subjects: the pricing, rights, work with galleries, etc, and I’m still trying to get organized and stabilize all of this a bit.
Seeing your editing process is absolutely amazing. After going through the “before/after” album on your Facebook I am just in awe. Generally, when you are creating work from these photos, do you know how you’re going to edit them before hand? Or do you shoot, open it up in Photoshop, and just go with it?
It depends, there are some pictures that I took with a very clear idea, and this is what usually happens with commissions. Others, normally personal work, are spontaneous photographs and have meaning after editing in Photoshop.
Any big plans for the future?
I’ve tried, but my plans always sound like a lie. Because plans are those with a future for me, and it is a difficult and absurd fight because it’s still wonderful. I can not ask for anything to be better. My only attachment is to be allowed to continue creating when I need it, as has happened so far.Well, it isn’t all I ask. My biggest dream is to direct a film. (I am planning to study film in the coming years)
Do you any advice, tips, or anything, that you would like to share with us fellow photographers?
The best thing I can say is that people should take advantage of the great tool we have, which is social networking. That all people should be more brave and show their work, to receive good and bad reviews. This will always be positive and it is always important to improve. It’s sad but in this world many untalented people find success while the talented people don’t try and seek these opportunities because of fear, so they become afraid and hide. Because sometimes opportunities come to you, but that is very strange. And in this way we run the risk of waiting too long for an opportunity to come to us and then suddenly it’s too late.