Erika Achec

Docu Interviews is a series where we interview the person behind the camera.

docu interview:

Who Are you?

I am Erika Achec, a concept photographer and Venezuelan documentarist, born in Caracas, currently living in Spain, specifically in Madrid. I studied Philosophy at the Central University of Venezuela and Documentary Photography at the Roberto Mata School of Photography, deepened my studies of visual communication at EICTV de cuba and completed a master’s degree in project management and conceptual photography at the International Center for Photography and Film (EFTI) in Spain.  I have a strong interest in how the body is a vessel that contains, sometimes mysteriously and subtly and sometimes forcefully, the experiences we experience through life and i express that in my photographs. The works that i have been developing in recent years explore the relationship between our essence and our environment, the impact that cultural constructions and stereotypes generate on us, always taking as reference our instincts and the most primary parts of our nature, just as it is affected in the new changing contexts of today. 

Where did you grow up and what was it like?

I grew up in Venezuela, in Caracas the capital of the country, a city where the natural will never be assumed naturally. In Venezuela you are always subject to stereotypes, i grew up in a country where it is considered that, to be beautiful you must have everything you physically lack speaking, where criticizing someone for their body is the most common, the ideals disclosed from the different media cosify permanently, it seems that their main mission is to press under standardized ideals. From my childhood to adulthood I have been haunted by this stereotypical pressure, to which my position was to resist as an act of survival and rebellion, to learn to love me, to accept me and to convey that feeling through photography, to seek to make a space where we change hegemonic thinking, these logics are questioned and invited to renew criteria.

How did you become a photographer?

Photography was always present in my life, I remember from a very young date having an analog camera with which I took photographs of those things that interested me and my mom at the end of the month led them to reveal it, that thrill of seeing what I had captured awakened in me a great motivation. I became a photographer because for me it is interesting what i can discover, life is interesting and being a witness before it is worth it, portraying it, capturing it and broadcasting it, besides. I like to be a female photographer, because patriarchy has always set the woman aside in the photo, and being also a woman who seeks to denounce current issues for the emancipation and female liberation motivate me. For me, the camera is not an object, but something of mine, which i do not notice, that flows easily and gives me freedom, a freedom with responsibility for what I show in a fragmented or complete way of reality. The photography for me is a long-term commitments, a lifestyle and a different way of looking.

Why did you choose photography over other mediums?

Without the mood to look romantic, photography makes me feel happy, more alive and more myself. As Garry Winogrand said, “When you put all your emotion into some facts, you change those facts.” When taking photos, a lot of energy, emotions and ways of seeing life flow. 

What is the most interesting project you have been working with?

Without a doubt the most interesting project so far has been Made in Venezuela, because it makes me find myself, challenge me, in addition to revealing those criteria that have marked part of my life, exposing this reality that extends in the world and to which i consider it necessary to denounce since without realizing it normalizes, and there is simply no neutral ground. The body, the face, the hair, today everything is political, beauty is a matter of respect, value and we have the right to exist without altering our identities, transgressing or preserving the body is an issue that should not be judged, but also not induced.

What do you usually do when you start a new project?

I usually do not intend to develop such a specific topic, since once I see patterns that can trigger a topic i start by giving it concept, then this takes a surprising turn, i get carried away, and once i find it i do a lot of research that supports what i want to tell, this is my starting point.  For me each project is unique, i leave a lot of emotional part in it, i set deadlines for each part of the process and thus organize my time, although this one may then have many variants to develop. I like to touch on broad, general themes, in which we somehow or other we feel identified.

What advice would you give to young emerging photographers?

I would tell them to trust the process – we all have wonderful things to tell and that it is interesting to see the nuance that makes each way of telling things unique. Let them take pictures, more and more, that do not allow anyone to tell them that they cannot or are not valuable enough for it, that they let instincts guide them and trust that surprise of the image, that it is inadvertently the heart that is clicking. Worry about knowing a little more about that image you capture, flipping the story and entering it to find something really interesting to tell.

What has been the most touching moment in your career?

It’s touching to me when I find people who feel identified with the stories that i tell and when the people find in my story a common place, that is, that they are not alone and that there are alternatives to stand before life and get ahead. The details, the expressions, being able to be in nearby places although this far away, manifestations of affection, those little things touch me and certainly motivate me a lot.

What are you working on right now?

I am currently working on portraying the naturalness of the body, a collaborative work between my 7-year-old daughter and my person, those ways of seeing the body and conceiving it, through ludic and natural interpretation. In this new project are present the game, the conception of naturalness, freedom and that innocent way of conceiving us.

Follow Erika on Instagram: @erika_achec

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Made in Venezuela – (c) Erika Achec

Made in Venezuela – (c) Erika Achec

Made in Venezuela – (c) Erika Achec

Made in Venezuela – (c) Erika Achec

Made in Venezuela – (c) Erika Achec

Made in Venezuela – (c) Erika Achec

How did you get the idea for the project Made in Venezuela?

The truth was obsessed with portraying that way in which the Venezuelan population conceives the perfection of the body and beauty, for a long time I dedicate myself to capturing images of the city and when analyzing them I realized that this stereotype was always present, a large majority of my friendly circle has given way to aesthetic operations, either by family or social pressure , just by seeking to belong to some social circle or simply to be accepted and that’s where i realized i had to talk about it.

What do you think is the most essential statement Made in Venezuela makes?

Susan Sontag said that “The camera makes everyone a tourist in the reality of other people and finally in that of oneself.” That is why i consider it as a most essential declaration to reveal these models imposed and assumed by women in their process of social insertion, where it is essential to become a sexual bomb of pure artificiality, it should be noted that officially and perform more than 84,886 breast operations annually in Venezuela, this being the fifth country with the most procedures of this type according to data provided by the international association of surgery.

Beauty standards are as old as time itself – how do you see the future of beauty standards?

Our culture has gone through great changes and references in the history of beauty, there are many types, as varied as flowers in the countryside, my reflection now through my work Made in Venezuela, is to take into account that beauty as and how they have imposed it on us, is not real, the more consumption, the more these stereotypes will be profiled in the end there is a great industry behind all these models imposed , i cannot have a futuristic view on this issue without it being devastating, however to the extent that more people position us critically on these issues, a higher level of awareness will be acquired.

Did you have any difficulties when working with the project? What happened “behind the scenes”?

My first difficulty was being away from my country, however, I was able to visit it again and I was able to get my project going, fortunately I had a big file of images of my country of many years and that helped me develop it. Another difficulty was contacting the surgeon doctors to collaborate with the project, and have the permission of the women who were performing the aesthetic operations to have portraits of the process, that allowing me to be into the development of the operations. I am very grateful to all the people who helped me develop it.

Made in Venezuela – (c) Erika Achec

Made in Venezuela – (c) Erika Achec

Made in Venezuela – (c) Erika Achec

Made in Venezuela is on display from 11/12/2020 to 03/01/2021 Factoriarte, an art and development gallery located in Madrid.