Scene: We are sitting in the casa de Pulpo drinking cafe and eating jamon y tomate sandwiches. The sun is pouring in through the window and we are both tired from a crazy week yet satisfied with the direction that life is taking us. I became aware of Carlos initially by his photographs of Pulpo y Luiza. I have always been a huge fan of their images and was thrilled to finally meet the man that helped create them. Now, when I come to Buenos Aires, he is a part of my circle of friends.
Q: Alright, I want to give the world all the gossip that you know. Just kidding. Tell me about how you started as a photographer.
Carlos: I started when I was 20 years old and was in the university studying as a architect. When I decided to take a break I bought my first camera, a Canon AT1 (a mechanical one). The camera captured me…. it was love at first sight. With my first roll, I discovered that I loved to look through the viewfinder. Then I noticed that I could study photography alone and by myself without too much effort because I felt so passionate about it. But I didn’t expect to be a professional photographer. I was just a person who took photos. I quit the university but kept my work as a technical drafter.
Q: What caused the change?
Carlos: People started calling me a photographer. For example, at a coffee shop, I was introduced as one and I was surprised because I didn’t think of myself that way yet. I considered photography as my hobby but it was an expensive one. So I would help pay for my hobby by selling some of my photos.
Q: When did photography become a career instead of a hobby?
Carlos:When I got more jobs as a photographer than I could hold without quitting my other job. This was in 1985
Q: What kind of jobs did you have?
Carlos: I worked as a photographer for contemporary and classical dancers, and for theatrical productions.
Q: So when did Tango appear?
Carlos: In 1989, when Tango had a rebirth, Tango couples started to ask me for photos. In 1997, I had my first Tango Exhibition at Centro Cultural Recoleta. It was called Entretangos and there were 38 black and white fine prints of Claudio Hoffmann & Pilar Alvarez, Alejandro Suaya & Elina Roldan, Nicole & Ricardo, Esteban Moreno & Claudia Codega, and some more. Fortunately, it was successful. I became known as a Tango photographer because of that exhibition. The direction of my career changed and Tango photography became a priority. It was a defining moment. Because the exhibition was during the Tango Week (September 11th – the event organized by the city, Buenos Aires), many people involved in Tango met me.
Q: How is taking photos of Tango Dancers different from taking other photos?
Carlos: Everything is different. At first sight, it is the elegance….the dresses … the suits… and of course, the shoes. It was so amazing to see all those shoes. Also….. the relationship between a man and a woman and the eroticism that Tango creates. What is most important to me is the man and woman together having some kind of chemistry. In those years, we (me and the dancers) investigated new ways to show tango… to show the soul, the spirit of tango because we didn’t want typical traditional images. We wanted to show what happens inside each couple. Not just the shape of the bodies. Then I started learning Tango as a dancer and became too involved with the shape of the bodies.
Q: What brought you back to wanting to illustrate the soul again?
Carlos: I realized in looking back that I liked the photos which showed the connection more and decided that I needed to go back to my roots.
Q: Could you give me some adjectives to describe these couples (who you have photographed) from a photographer’s point of view…. their energy, their presentation?
Carlos: Pulpo y Luiza – crazy rock Tango! We work listening to ACDC – 4 hours of ACDC …. drinking, laughing, socializing. The first time I took those photos, I felt like they were rock models. Pulpo is very creative and has a consciousness of the point of view of the camera.
Dana y Pablo – They are wonderful. They always have a proposal and never stop moving in their proposals. I try to have them stop and hold a pose but they can not because their creativity keeps flowing. And their passion is indescribable. I feel that they are not just dancing. They also tell a story about a man and a woman.
Gustavo Naviera y Giselle Anne- They are the most professional dancers I have ever met. Julio Balmaceda introduced us. When I first met Gustavo I showed him my profolio and he looked at them as serious as he could possibly look … absolutely silent.. and when he finished he asked me, “How much do you charge for a shoot”? You know, he is my teacher. I consider him my most important teacher because I followed his lessons for years and he defined how I understand and dance the Tango. He uses my photos often and always remembers to use my name.
Q: And your plans for the future?
Carlos: I am planning new exhibitions – not particularly about the Tango. Maybe I would like to make a Tango exhibition with non Argentine couples.
Q: Do you think you can find non Argentine couples with passion?
Carlos: ja ja ja… I already have found them. I have enough material at this moment. Passion is part of our nature and it doesn’t matter what country you are from. Maybe people from other countries show it in another way but passion is a part of us.