Esteban Pastorino Diaz and Kev Byrne, early May 2016 (in progress)
KB: You seem to enjoy the ‘music of chance’ in your photography, has it always been like that for you?
EP: It was not always like that, indeed when I started studying photography and in my early years of professional work in advertising photography, I was trying to control as much as possible. When I made my fist panoramic camera I realized that it was very difficult to foresee the final image, and that was a breaking point in the way I was dealing with photography. Perhaps the most important change in the way of working was the fact of not really composing or framing the image, and the other was working with long exposures. The fact of not seeing what I was photographing was also present in the KAP series.
KB: Wow, that’s a tantalising risk: semi compostional-less photography!? What do you find so alluring about chance?
EP: Chance, sometimes, can give better or more interesting results than control. And it is always more surprising for me.
KB: You create amazing home-made slit-scan cameras, do you always challenge yourself like that?
EP: I don’t do it because I challenge myself but in response to a need. Some projects start from visual ideas or, better to say, visual questions. For instance the stereo panoramic camera was the response to “how a 360 degree panorama or a ‘moving camera’ shot would look in 3D”. I do enjoy the process of designing and building cameras, but it is not done for the sake of challenge. Other projects I did, didn’t always call for a special camera, so I used standard cameras.
KB: I understand, and I love the idea of visual questions.
When did you discover the link between your technical, engineering background and photography, or has it always been there?
EP: I believe the link was always there, since I was a kid I was attracted by technical things. I think that is the reason why Photography feels so familiar. Let me ramble a bit… When I think how to create an image, the previous process (sometimes this means making a camera) is, sometimes, more important than the moment of shooting, which is certainly not a “Cartier-Bressonian” attitude. Indeed, I don’t like to separate the process in previous/later stages taking the moment of shooting as separation point. I would rather think as a project in a single developing of an idea where things done in the beginning may be influenced by things to be done in a later and vice versa, and shooting is just a small part of the bunch of decisions to be made.
Let me give you an example: when I was designing the stereo panoramic camera I had to decide the distance between lenses, which defines the degree of the 3D effect. And for that I had to know in which size I would show the images because that also affects the degree of the 3D effect. So I decided first the ways of showing the images and later I made the camera based on that.
KB: I hear what you’re saying. You seem to have a wonderful relationship with the ‘process’ of creating something. I like what you said in your 2009 interview with Charles Stainback about how you: “...find pleasure in every part of the process…” That’s wonderful! I too firmly believe that we don’t follow the preordained path but much more likely that we create the path by walking. Esteban, do you think that creativity and the Arts in general are often overlooked in educational systems? Does there seem to be a tendency to laud maths over drawing? Or English over dancing?
EP: well first of all , it´s hard to answer that question not knowing most of the educational systems, so any generalization may be not valid. I bet the answer will be not the same if we are talking about Finland, USA, Korea, Cuba, Argentina or Nigeria. So I talk from the limited perspective I know. That being said, I still will risk an answer. I believe that most people relate creativity to certain fields and don´t relate it to others. Very often we think we can not be creative in maths or physics, and that arts (in any of its forms) is the only field in which creativity can take place. And I think this is one of biggest mistakes about creativity in educational systems. It is not about teaching more hours of arts and less math, it´s about feeding creativity in any field. Let´s think of one of the most named geniuses: Leonardo. Big part of his inventions were machinery or war related devices. Newton´s laws of motion and the theory of relativity are creative approaches to problems in physics. Theory of evolution was, at its time, a different creative view in biology.
One may not find creativity in learning how to solve a math equation , but I also wonder where is the creativity when practicing one ballet step over and over. We can not mistake learning a technique for lack of creativity. Doing the first is so important as feeding the second. The knowledge or technique is necessary to express the creativity when it arises, and this is valid for any discipline.
KB: I agree – and yes, please forgive the sweeping and slightly ridiculous generalization! – I was thinking mostly of a Western perspective. Have you seen Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on Creativity on TED? Worth half an hour of your time maybe, if you haven’t.
Often when I ask students (I teach language to kids, teens and adults) to draw something – or think creatively – they say: “I am no good at drawing” (You don’t need to be!), or: “I have no creativity.” – “I’m not a creative person”. Why such stigma towards creativity? What are we scared of? People feel embarrassed about being creative, how’s that?? Are we conditioned to feel like that? The fact that you can even walk, talk, think, exist in the world is thanks to your mind (us) being CREATIVE! From that point of view we are all creative, always! “I’m not a creative person” – ha, what a glorious paradox!
I totally agree with that wonderful point: “It is not about teaching more hours of arts and less math , it´s about feeding creativity in any field.” Absolutely! (And I bet there’s a hell of a lot more creativity in Maths than we at first think). The observation re learning a technique and a lack of creativity: “Doing the first is so important as feeding the second” is great too. I believe that ANY person given the right learning environment (for them) can be stimulated to be involved, creative and enthusiastic about learning (although there are a myriad of factors that can make or break that ideal environment – in fact, it hardly ever exists in a school and usually happens to the individual on a personal level elsewhere?)
EP: I had the chance to see the TED talk you mentioned. I enjoyed it. Nice sense of humor. Jokes are maybe one of the most creative examples that shows a different way of thinking that always surprises us. Somehow our conversation moved to education and creativity, being both and specially the first one, fields in which I am not instructed. So it is difficult to give a precise point of view.
I agree, everybody is creative in his/her own way. I always see it with people who are doing what they like when they are not thinking about the results, but education is not about learning only what we like. Maybe one problem of the Western education system, under the risk of generalization, is the lack of focus on individuals´ potential, as Robinson mentioned in the example about dancing.
KB: Oh yes, I love the story of Gillian Lynne! You said (2009) that you get these “short bursts” of creativity. These are clearly part of the whole complex series of factors that influence your process(es). Do you ever just let yourself go? I mean, do you ever get that flash of inspiration that you go with? Or is your style (or one of them anyway) more about the ‘journey’ than the destination? I had a wonderful chat with an artist recently who pointed out that for him the feeling of DOUBT is fundamental to his learning/creative processes – and I personally love the questions that arise from doubting (almost constantly) myself (and not just in an artistic/creative context either). How do you feel about that ‘doubt’, Esteban? Does it play a part in your work/thinking?
EP: I believe that anyone has bursts of creativity, but sometimes these are not detected or paid attention , the other thing is (quoting Picasso) “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”, but in a daily life with a lot of other issues in our minds, that might not always be the case, so inspiration most of the time just passes unnoticed.
I try to follow the inspiration or ideas that from time to time arise. Sometimes they lead to interesting results, and most of the time to interesting processes with awful results. But the journey is always worth it. At the beginning of the journey, when I start a new process there is always doubt, and that makes it interesting. If I would have no doubts, it would not be inspiration but enlightenment, and I don´t know what that feels like. Doubt implies incomplete knowledge or understanding, and consequently the risk of failure (if we only cared about results); and failure, as Robinson says, is stigmatized.
Consequently a doubt, is somehow stigmatized as well, because expose the lack of knowledge and, potentially, this can lead to failure. For me doubts and the mental or practical processes necessary to get rid of them, always lead to learning, so I always try to pay attention to them. The ending balance is always positive, if I (again) don’t think only about the result.
KB: Once again – possibly evidence that we make the path by walking? It’s very interesting what you are saying about the process overriding the result. I’ve been doing photography for years and it has been so liberating doing it just because I wanted to without any stress or deadlines or reasons. That has changed somewhat now that I am attempting to study it – although only a slight change, and a welcome one at that to be honest, Esteban. Isn’t it a shame that we can’t go through life doing these kinds of things because, as you say, we have other issues to deal with? But, I imagine, for some people, the lack of time could be a creative resource, I mean, we are all different. Besides, I’m pretty sure being creative or feeling inspired isn’t just down to one factor (I accept that I am not an authority on the Human condition of course!), but clearly there must be many contributory factors, wouldn’t you agree?
EP: Regarding going through life doing these kinds of things, I think we can do it and we are doing it indeed, so I don´t think it´s a shame. Maybe in another world and time we could spend more time on such things. It is a challenge, doubtless; and some may find a way to go through life dealing with this in a creative manner and doing creative things; for some others it may be a burden; as you said everyone reacts differently and there are many variables- factors involved. It is not and it was not my intention to generalize and I am not an authority on the Human condition either, it´s just my arguable point of view. Regarding the changes that take place when one starts studying, it think they are quite normal, it happened to me as well. And it might be the case that we put creativity aside while we are learning the techniques, as the musician fingering over and over. When inspiration comes one may have all the tools to express it.
Diaz, E. (2016). ::: Esteban Pastorino Diaz ::: Oficial Web Site :::. [online] Estebanpastorinodiaz.com. Available at: http://www.estebanpastorinodiaz.com/pastorinoenglish.htm [Accessed 13 May 2016].