We are delighted to publish our sixth Portrait of an Artist interview to this very special column, edited by Jennifer Bracewell. This week Jennifer has interviewed Roger Guetta who is not only one of our wonderful Columnists, see here but also a wonderful artist and Professor of Theatre Arts in Montreal, where he has worked for 30 years. Prior to that Roger spent many years in the field running his own theatre, painting and experimenting in photographic techniques. He has also been involved in the film business as screenwriter and producer. His works during that period where shown in both Montreal and Toronto galleries. Over to you Jen, (foreword by Joanne Carter).
(We also have a dedicated Facebook group set up for this Column too – please join us here. Jennifer regularly adds and contributes to this. In addition we have set up a Flickr Group dedicated to this column. We would like you to send all your portraiture here and we will select images for curation and showcases as well as commentary – this is the Flickr Group link).
“I have known Roger through the community for years and he’s most definitely proven himself to be one of the most talented, creative, experimental artists out there. I’m consistently amazed at the depth of his work, the layers, and the details in his images. He’s very prolific and I honestly don’t know how he does it, but I’m glad he does! Roger is an inspiration to me; his portraiture is particularly moving and often mysterious. I find myself looking at his work for long periods, discovering new details. I love the stories he weaves in his images. I was thrilled when Roger agreed to do this interview with me (after his jaunt to Paris, which I loved following on Facebook).”
‘A Suspicious Woman’ – ©Roger Guetta
What are your earliest memories of photography and/or art?
! don’t remember being a particularly creative kid growing up. Until I took the opportunity to travel to Europe after my first semester of university, I had ambitions of acquiring an MBA then a career in business.
On that trip to Europe, one of my traveling companions insisted we visit as many museums and cultural centers as possible. This opened a whole new world for me. I remember the day I stood before the Statue of David in Florence. I felt tremors and an undeniable need enveloped me. Until then, I was satisfied to appreciate art. Now I felt compelled to create it.
What have you sacrificed for your art?
Simply put, I sacrificed a potentially lucrative lifestyle in the financial arena to immerse myself in a grand experiment. I disappointed my parents, lived a marginal existence, living hand to mouth to ply my trade. In retrospect, the richness of experience afforded by this decision, outweighs any fortunes I may have amassed in another field.
‘The Insomniac Sessions’ – ©Roger Guetta
What is it that appeals so much to you about portraiture?
As in most of my other work, I try to infuse underlying intent, conflict and tension so the image resounds with both intellectual and emotional impact. In portraiture I seek to tell stories rife with human drama. Human stories with their foibles, introspective dilemmas, illuminated realizations, direct suspicions, indirect lamentations and inexplicable fascinations. I revel in the juxtapositioning of these elements.
Why do you think mobile photography and portraiture work so well together?
The obvious convenience of the device, the precision of individual apps, the ability to traverse the app palette (which to my mind is the single most factor in separating our art form from others,) the unsung power of the ‘camera roll,’ where ones images are conveniently stored, the delicious fact that I can create my work anywhere whether it be at a café, in a waiting room, a line up, in my living room…no matter, my tool is at hand.
I mention the negotiation of the ‘app palette,’ only because I thrive in the layering, deconstruction and construction of my images, but for more traditional portrait artists the fact that a preferred app or two can be enough to render compelling work is great.
‘Losing Control’ – ©Roger Guetta
Tell me about awards and recognition you’ve received
In my life before mobile photography I had been invited by The Royal Ontario Museum to collaborate on a limited edition book by a Canadian treasure, Emily Carr.
A renowned Spanish playwright, Fernando Arrabal flew in from Paris to witness both the New York production directed by Tom O’ Horgan (original director of the Broadway production of ‘Hair’) and the production I was an actor in, directed by Jeanine Laskar in Toronto.
I ran my own theatre in Toronto that received many accolades by the press. I also produced film for the Canadian market.
The culmination of these accomplishments was recognized by Vanier College in 1982 by hiring me as a professor. This is my most cherished award as I have had the good fortune of sharing with young minds and time enough to produce my art.
Recently, I have been honored by the mobile community in including me on online galleries, blogs and eBooks such as Mobile Masters. I have shown my work in one-man and group shows in Montreal and internationally, most recently a show in Paris at The Mobile Camera Club. My college showed their support and recognition by funding the printing costs and flight to Paris. I must thank my dean and my union for their generosity.
Which of your own images are you most proud of and why?
I wish I could answer this question honestly, but unfortunately I can’t. In a way they are all my children. Each has a dynamic of its own. Each one speaks in different tones, articulates different ideas. Sometimes they bellow, sometimes they whisper, other times they reach out, other times in. It is up to each of my viewers to judge the intensity or subtlety of their voices. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ with it.
‘La Grande Dame’ – ©Roger Guetta
What have been the high points and low points of your career so far?
I suspect I have answered this question in # 5. I’ll add that the highs and the lows are part of the whole. The grand adventure that includes the intricacies of the process, the precision of production and the joy of sharing. The lessons of ‘failure’ and the satisfaction of so-called ‘success’ are inextricably intertwined and lend to one’s evolution as a creator. A favorite quote of mine is: “Failure is like manure….it stinks…but it helps things grow. “
What would you say the biggest myth is about mobile photography?
That it’s a toy at best, not a powerful tool capable of untold possibilities. Beauty is found within and within we find a myriad of options capable of wondrous results in the hands of serious experimenters. We all know that the final result, notwithstanding what tool is used is the true indicator. Can the work move the viewer? Can it resonate as a serious process for the artist, providing interesting decision making modalities? Is it as conducive to stream of consciousness workflows as it is to conceptual commitments? On the technical side, does it have the pixel heft to translate into clean hard copies? In my experience, it accommodates the artist’s passions and squares up to technical requirements.
I know I join many mobile artists in the role of myth buster.
‘Prepared To Adjust’ – ©Roger Guetta
What/whose work of art would you most like to own?
I’d like to wallpaper my walls with rows of artwork created by the community. Booyah!!
‘The Photographer’ – ©Roger Guetta
What song would work as the soundtrack to your life?
One More Cup Of Coffee – Bob Dylan (link)