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Being Yourself Is Enough to Succeed

Arantxa Gonlag
Mon 26 Mar
Function Photographer
Year 2014
Major Photography
Practice Autonomous Practices

Arantxa Gonlag has received her BA Digital Photography (now Photography) within the minor Hacking (Autonomous Practices) in 2014. She continued her study at the Piet Zwart Institute (Media Design and Communication) and has received her Master in Arts degree in 2016.

What is your occupation now?

Currently, I have different occupations – and that’s how I like it. Mostly my focus lies now in the photography collective Mondays, which I have set up with my two ex-classmates and friends Eva Martinez Rey and Marissa Splinter. Our collective is based on own experience with the difficulties of finding a spotlight for our own work in the photography world, after graduation. We try to make this difficulty the core of discussion and organise exhibitions around projects dealing with this issue in one way or another.

Next to this collective, I am starting up a workshop platform with a colleague where we would like to teach people to create and tell stories using image and movement. This relates to my own practice where the story is always the leading thread - and my other job: training people at my families’ gym. I have always been designing/making things and doing a lot of sports, unable to sit still. I am very fortunate in that I combine both passions to earn a living.

The Places in Between, (2016)

This photography book is an encrypted documentation of one day in the artist's life. Our digital information can never be read completely because it is divided into different levels of accessibility and without a source. Information provided by automated means, safeguarded only for certain people, not all.

What expertise did you gain at WdKA?

In the first year, I was struggling with the assignments. I thought photographers had to be completely immersed in the studio and standard portrait photography. I had an idea of what a photographer was, but I myself couldn’t fit that picture. It wasn't until the second year – when have I stopped trying to be something else and have started doing just what I liked – that I finally understood what photography was and what I could do with it. There were a few assignments I had to redo a gazillion times – but it was all for the best.

WdKA made me realise what the art practice is about

WdKA made me realise what the art practice is about: conceptualisation and storytelling, embracing the errors and the process, less focusing on the end result, always analysing the path you take to get to the ‘end’. I was given the space and time to find my own voice within the medium, by allowing my creativity to cross boundaries, and due to a group of trusted people who help each other.

 What is the future of your profession in your opinion?

I think the borders between separate art practices will blur more and more. Photographers will use graphics, film and text, much like graphic artists will use photography and text and writers will use photography and sound. This is happening already but now the professional terms are also dissolving. At least, I hope this is happening. We are all artists with a favourite and primary medium, but in order to tell a certain story sometimes, a different medium or crossover is more beneficial for the impact. Broadening the professional terms setting us apart will make the art field a more open space for different ideas and acceptance.

Mama, Tess and I (2016)

The photography book series ‘Mama, Tess en ik’ investigates the digital relationship Arantxa has with her mother and sister.

View the book presentation video below.

Mama, Tess & I

You never leave your house without…?

My bike: I try to cycle everywhere I go as much as possible. Rain or sun, camera or no camera.

Any words of advice to future students?

Never compare yourself to others of your age or in your field of practice. Everybody has their own pace of getting to their success and a different journey to get there. The term success, for that matter,  also has a different meaning for each individual. I used to spend nights on the internet checking old schoolmates careers and it drove me crazy. I was insecure about my place -  it felt like everyone was doing better than I did. For me, it created a very tense work attitude where I'd take on anything that was thrown at me – regardless of what my integrity said – because I HAD to be that successful as well.

It got to a point where I accepted a lot of assignments. Which was good on the one hand, but it also made me disregard my own projects, while those were what I really craved doing, why I wanted to be a photographer in the first place. It was like reliving my difficult first year all over again, where I was merely copying others in order to fit the general picture, not enjoying the creation process at all. And then I'd made a decision that my personal work needed to become a priority so I quit doing assignments altogether. My work has to be my work completely, only then I can call it a personal success.

The Data Diary (2014)

In this diary, Arantxa shows and explains the research to find the physical destination of her digital data. This quest leads not only to the physical infrastructure of cables, but also the places within and outside the Netherlands where the personal content is stored. During this search, questions arise about control and transparency of today’s life. This (graduation) project consists of diary entries that Arantxa wrote during the process, and pictures that make the journey and feeling visible. Added to that are the side data lists with emails, places and phone calls which you can trace back to her, which were important moments in the quest.

Name your favourite recent project.

It’s not really a project as is, but something that fascinates me ever since I have read about Robert Mapplethorpe and his work. My friend gave me the book "Just Kids" by Patti Smith. It is the story of her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe and their struggle for success in New York in the 60’s and 70’s. It made me realise how fundamentally different the art practice has grown since then. We don’t have to struggle to get to our materials and exposure, comparatively, everything comes so easy for us. Still, we complain about how many artists are out there taking our spots, fighting to stand out. Back then they didn’t complain, they just kept on working until they got their moment of exposure. It was all about success and making their art or nothing. They were able to live without shelter or food, but not without creating their art. I have come to appreciate photography of that time more: in every photograph I can see the struggle. I realise now how easy my life is, and appreciate every little project that makes it to a publication of some sort more and more.

View all the recent projects on Arantxa's  website 

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