Alexandra Serrano is a French-Mexican photographer. She holds two Master degrees, one in Photographic Studies from Westminster University and one in Art History from the university Paris 8. Her practice is mainly autobiographical and self- reflective, tackling themes such as those of family, childhood and memory. Her work features in various publications and has been exhibited in both group and solo exhibitions across Europe and North America. Today we take a look at Alexandra’s series titled Théorie de la Cachette.
Théorie de la Cachette is a photographic series that depicts the forest as a boundless space whose immensity engenders admiration, contemplation and fright. Transcended by the stillness and solitude of the natural world, the visitor transforms his wander into a journey of emancipation. Carried by playing and daydreaming begins a quest for identity scattered with obstacles, singular rituals and secret hideaways. A need to tame ambiguous and suspicious places. To transform the landscape by giving it a certain theatricality in an attempt to reinvent a daily life that has been overtaken by the banal and the ordinary.
In this game of hide and seek between fantasy and reality the hut, the cabin, the cave, play an essential role. Natural and unruly, these constructions are part of the forest a mythical land full of mysteries and illusions. They blend into the surrounding nature, taking up the colour of the seasons until their destruction. Temporary shelters or secondary homes they guarantee a quiet and protected rest, a timeless moment away from the world which can still be contemplated without the fear of being seen.
Found or built these refuges escape the ordinary spatial categories, forming unique territories, heterotopias halfway between a geographical reality and human imagination. Hideouts where eclectic findings and valiantly earned trophies are carefully stored. Sacred places where fantasies of freedom and promises of escape are finally fulfilled. But if the hut and the cavern accompany the traveller in his quest, they are also the nightmare that awaits every dream for they can as well be uncanny and forbidden places inhabited by harmful individuals. Ambushes that can quickly turn into prisons if one was to fall into them.
AB: Hey Alexandra! Can you start by telling me about yourself and how you started taking photos?
I was born and raised in France in a small town an hour away form Paris. As a child and teenager, I have always been interested in art mainly painting and poetry, but never felt any particular attraction towards photography. After graduating from high school I left my hometown for London where I started a BA. I was unsure about what I wanted to do and enrolled on a Creative Advertising course thinking it could be to a good carrier path. On the first day of class, I got lost and found myself in the university basement where stood the darkroom of the photography department. I chatted with the technicians and watched the other students working on their prints. This place fascinated me immediately: its silence, its obscurity, its smell and all these images appearing and disappearing under the red light. That’s when photography found me, and since then I have never let it go. After a week, I’ve changed my BA to photography and later completed a Masters in Photographic Studies at the University of Westminster. I have now moved to Paris where I’ve been working as a photographer for nearly 5 years and had my work featured in various publications and exhibitions across Europe and North America.
AB: Can you tell me how this series started? What sparked your interest in the work?
The forest always had an important place in my life. The house in which I grew up stood at edge of the forest of Fontainebleau. Over the years it became a familiar environment, a place to which I became greatly attached. A home away from home. As a child it was my playground, the land of many adventures and extraordinary stories. As a teenager it became a place of freedom and escapism away from parental authority. When I moved back to France after my studies, I felt the need to get closer to home. I spent a lot of time wandering alone in this particular forest, going back to the sites of my childhood where I used to build huts, finding new ones made by kids just like me, 15 years ago. That’s when the series started. I wanted to reinvest as an adult all these places, to go deep into the woods and photograph the unseen and the mysterious, calling back on childhood memories while playing on the symbolic aspect of the forest as a place of myths, legends and fairytales.
AB: What do you strive to convey in this body of work? Is there a feeling or sense of place you want your viewer to relate to from the series?
Through this series I wanted to picture the forest as a timeless space, disconnected from the urban world. To do so I have tried to convey its psychological impact on the visitor by putting forward its stillness and solitude. The series starts as a journey of wander into the woods and eventually turns into a quest for identity scattered with obstacles, singular rituals and secret hideaways. The silence and obscurity of the forest prompts contemplation and its immensity provides us with a space in which we can loose ourselves, escaping the monotony of everyday life in order to find our true selves.
AB: What connections do the portraits and landscapes have in this series?
The people portrayed in the series are all close to me : childhood friends or family members. They share the relationship I have with the Fontainebleau forest through common memories. They have explored these woods with me and are therefore part of them. Their self-absorbed postures reflects the state of introspection engendered by the peculiar atmosphere of the forest.
In 2012, Alexandra Serrano participated in the Intimate Space project organised by the Brazilian artist Georgia Creimer, for the 2012 Youth Olympic Games in Innsbruck, Austria. Her project, Between Finger and Thumb was exhibited in Paris at the Festival Circulations(s) in March 2012, as well as in Montpellier for the Boutographies where she awarded the Exchange Prize, enabling her to exhibit in Rome at Fotoleggendo Festival along with established artists. Alexandra Serrano´s work was also shown in Toronto, Portland and Boston for the 2012/13 Flash Forward Festival, and more recently in the south of France at the Musée des Tapisseries of Aix-en-Provence. In the fall of 2014 she awarded first place in the fine art portrait category of the International Photography Awards (IPA) and in February 2015 she won the PHOTOBOOK Melbourne Photography Awards.
To view more of Alexandra’s work please visit her website.