story / Cristina Leiva photographs / Rai Robledo
Rai Robledo, is more that just one of my favorite artists he is also a successful portrait photographer based in the underground heart of Madrid and a living example of how to highlight yourself as an artist in the today’s over saturated digital era. I had a lovely conversation with Rai while I was in Spain and we got to talk about music, Madrid, Terry Richardson, Ladygunn and photography today. It was a delight!
Ladygunn: Do you like living in Madrid?
Rai Robledo: Yes!, I’ve born in Madrid. I’ve been in many other cities and countries, I love to travel and see different cultures… But I’ll always adore Madrid since is my home and a perfect city where living.
Why is Madrid a perfect place where living?
Madrid has everything, an enormous range of leisure and also a huge cultural mixture. Madrid is not only for weekends, any day that you go out, at any time, you will always find people out and something funny to do. Isn’t awesome that we are making this interview on a Saturday evening while having fun in the Malasaña’s neighborhood?
You have to convince a foreign friend to come visit Madrid, what do you tell him or her?
I would talk them about the great gastronomic offer (Spanish and international food), the great offer of cultural activities and small galleries and museums really charming still unknown for the most of people that worth being visited, such as all the small galleries in Huertas neighborhood. Also the fact of can be having fun 24 hours a day makes of Madrid one of the best known cities in the world.
If you had to rate Madrid in a ‘cool’ range? 1 is the less cool and 10 is the coolest.
Madrid is definitely not a ‘cool’ city. I don’t think that Madrid is a city that creates trends, in Madrid trends usually arrive late and people interprets them as they want. What is cool from Madrid is that looks like a ‘Big town’ that keeps that 80’s touch left from the ‘Movida madrileña’ (A subculture born in the 80’s in Madrid based in british punk). In Madrid is also interesting the huge contrast of kind of people; you can go to Salamanca’s neighborhood and find the preppy people, walk a little bit to La Latina’s neighborhood and meet hippies or keep walking to Malasaña and find all rockers and hipsters there or just a few steps away go to Chueca and find the liberal and boho people in the city. Madrid is the city of contrasts!.
What you think about Madrid’s nightlife? Where do you like to go?
My favorite area to go at night is Malasaña’s. I like places there as ‘La via lactea’, a referent club from the ‘Movida madrileña’ in the 80’s and other less popular places as El garage sónico or Louie Louie. I also like the nightlife in Lavapiés or La latina neighborhoods.
Now let’s talk about photography. Anyone who sees your work could guess that you adore women. What does women has that you love to capture?
I really make all kind of pictures, but what I like the most is photographing people and photographing people I especially like women, they are esthetically more interesting. I like to portray women who attract my attention and who can fit in the shoot that is in my head. Also the women’s beauty is insuperable.
You have been in a few bands also, in Ladygunn we love music, talk us about them and tell us nice places where listening live music in Madrid.
I started playing drums as a hobby, then I found myself playing in a band called ‘Hipsters’, we recorded an album for Indie’s music specialized Acuarela Records. Years after I came in a band called ‘Cuerpos’, we played in the Primavera Sound Festival. After that and currently I’m playing in Alta Cabeza, a punk-rock band with lyrics in Spanish, we just launched an album, Enciclopedia Animal, and you guys will can listen it soon in Spotify.
The places to listen live music in Madrid that I like the most are La sala el juglar, El Wurlitzer, Costello or bigger places like La sala sol.
What about the state of photography now?
The concept of photography changed a lot since the arrival of the internet. Everything is easier and the information runs quicker. Thanks to all of this everyone can find the photographer inside them.
The instantaneity concept that you can have thanks to programs like Instagram, where you can load pics as you take them, a few years ago were unthinkable. Also happens with platforms like Flickr, Tumblr or Pinterest.
I know you since a while, you were one of the first persons that I saw interested in taking back the analogy after the digital cameras. Lately there is this trend of lomography. What you think about it? Do you think that it will last long?
The digital photography is the responsible of taking the analogical photography back. It happens the same that happened with digital music, I think that after those years without analogical cameras people realized that analogy had something that digital photography couldn’t replace, as vinils had something that digital music couldn’t replace neither. I think both, digital and analogy, can live together in harmony. Depending of your mood you can use your digital or your analogic one. Yes, this trend will last, people who likes photography can understand it in both ways.
What you think about Terry Richardson?
I think that he fulfills perfectly with all the qualities that a photographer needs to have. He’s a great PR, you can see reflected in his pictures that he has a great relationship with the people that he portrays and he makes them feel good in front of the lens. He’s also a photographer that has shown to the world that you don’t need to have the greatest knowledge about light or technique, they are crude, unretouched daily living pictures, real and impactant and people like them.
It’s an interesting photography style that can coexist with the rest. So crude, so real, I like it!
We have a lot of readers who maybe are photographers or, at least, they work in art. Getting your career started in this world is not an easy thing, wich would be you advice for them? Specially for photographers, since you got it!
Now all the artistic disciplines have an advantage and a disadvantage. The advantage is that everyone can have access to them and today everyone can be a photographer, do cinema, do music, everyone today can get easily a camera. You can record an album with just having a computer! All of this was an impossible thing just a few years ago. The bad part of all of this is certainly that: Everyone has access to art so you have much more competence and you do need to be much more persistent if you want to excel in your field. My advice for photographers is keep and keep taking pictures, never stop showing them, never give up, sooner or later your moment will come and you will can make your profession of it. For me it has been the perseverance, together with a bit of luck that made me can work exclusively in photography, I feel so lucky because it’s not an easy thing.
Talking about photography. What inspires you? Tell us worthy photographers, besides you.
I never know how to give names. I usually find myself inspired by anonymous photographers who’s real profession is not photography and who post real marvels on their Tumblr or Flirck sites.
Also watching photography books is something very inspiring to me. It’s something that I keep recommending, it’s more satisfactory than watching pics on a laptop screen.
Definitely, anything can inspire me, any picture in a book, any pic in a magazine, in a computer screen or in a cinema one, cinema is still photography!
What you think about the Ladygunn aesthetic?
I do like the format, the page layout and as a photographer I like the predominance of images and the way they are integrated with the text. Also the pictures are quality ones and they have been chosen with a cool taste. The mag’s design is great!
And finally, Rai, tell me some ‘to do’ projects where we can go and see your work.
I’m not an exhibitions photographer. Today the best gallery is the internet. I wouldn’t dislike to watch my pictures on a gallery but I don’t get obsessed about that. What I certainly want to do in a medium-term space of time is to launch a photography book, I must think about which kind of book would I like to do and also look for someone to publish it. I think it is just as important for a photographer to see your photos online to see them on paper.