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[Photography] Interview with el Kallpa

[KELP JOURNAL] The first thing I always love to ask photographers is what they look for in a shot. What is the thing that makes you click the shutter?


[EL KALLPA] I consider myself an “in your face” photographer, so the closest I can get to the subject, the action, the fire, the spark… the better… But I don’t consider that the only reason to press the shutter, sometimes it could be an action, something interesting or a geometrically pleasing figure, a dark scene, or some light reflections… I try to freeze the moment with the intention of sharing it with the world later.

[KJ] The photos feel very wild and raw: spinning fire, intense stares. It makes me wonder what you were trying to capture in them. 


[EK] With the photography in action, I wanted to capture the feelings of the performers, try to see through them, pick the moment when they are in the zone and they are having fun, they are not worried about how they look, what people think, but instead they are “in the moment” and I want to somehow (partially) freeze that moment in an image. With the intense stares, these are more of a studio session, and I asked the models to think of something rough, look into the lens and scare me away. We do start the session with some smiles, and their comfortable pose once we establish a trust relationship, I start talking to them, try to evoke some feelings and let them be wild and free.

[KJ] I find it interesting that you used adult women—not men, not girls—as models for each of the elements. What about women supported this elemental power you’ve captured in each photo?


[EK] Women are amazing. These powerful women were expressing themselves with a very powerful element (fire, intensity, movement) and it is not an easy task to accomplish. It takes a particular kind of human to express themselves in front of a lens. I have done some photography with male subjects as well, also I often photograph my kids, but it is a different kind of photography. In the studio session of these photographs there were about 16 models and there were around 4 males. These pictures, however, were my favorite ones and I felt they capture the essence of this theme.

[KJ] Can you talk about what goes into a getting these shots? Is it planned or spontaneous? Who decides the make-up and costumes? What is the lighting like?


[EK] The ones at the shows and fire dancing events are just capturing part of the performance. A lot of experimental parts go into play; angles, and always trying to not interfere with the performance, the lighting is often challenging, and in these particular shots I was hand-holding and used a tripod as well. For the studio session there is a backdrop, but I try t get very close to the subject to almost invade their personal space. After establishing some trust relationship some tension is created, and in these particular shots I almost interacted with the models in a way that I asked them “scare me away with your eyes”, kind of tell, “get out of my space” and got them to be a little more intense, of course you don’t want to keep that environment for a long time, so after a few serious shots you always try to get them to relax, joke around or say something nice and caring to release the tension. It is difficult to explain such a physical and mental moment by writing into words, but it is a little bit it of a dancing around the comfort zone, and be quick, cross it, snap your shot, back up, smile, hold it, move, get in, get out – be the tension and the comical release all within seconds.

For both instances I was not involved on make-up or costumes at all, I was invited as a photographer to capture the moment.

[KJ] You are a lyricist and singer as well as an artist who works in various media, and I always ask multidisciplinary artists how they know what form a project calls for. Do the projects speak to you from the onset or do you have to tinker and play around to find the correct form for the subject? 


[EK] As far as photography goes, it works very well with videography, but at the same time, after “testing it” you kind of arrive at a “favorite” one. For example, sometimes I write lyrics based on an idea of a video I have, I see “a movie” and I am trying to write music and lyrics to compliment that, but sometimes it is the complete opposite, the feelings as poetry goes first, then chords, then melodies. I try, to keep my brain entertained, to always change things up and get out of my comfort zone. The project presented here was part of a study I was doing for a few years by assisting a movement here in Monterey for a few years back in 2017 thru 2020. I attended a few events, I worked on my settings, understood the movements, anticipated the parts and then showed the performers the images that resulted of that, they invited me back for a photo session (studio setting) and later another group invited me to the event to capture their show. To make these images taken at different places and different times, I treated them digitally to make them become part of one project. I hope this makes sense. To nail a cohesive project there are steps, from studying, learning, to experimenting, pushing boundaries, and finally capturing the moment. There are some instances where there is a specific way I anticipate results, but a lot of it is also adapting to the situation and not being too rigid; be like water and be fresh.


Gracias! Now get out there and make some ART!

 el Kallpa Originally named Gerardo Rodrigo Olivares Zúñiga, was born in 1982 in the city of Lima, the largest city in PERÚ. El Kallpa is mainly a lyricist, singer and the brains behind the projects he gets involved in. He is an Artist incorporating Photography, Videography, Poetry and Sounds into his expression. “EL KALLPA” is a traditional artist that has been creating art for many years through various mediums. The artistic environment he was born into heavily influenced him in the early years of life living in Lima, Peru. His mother is a very resourceful seamstress and an artisan designer, and his father is a successful painter and

sculptor that have influenced “El Kallpa” to create his own craft. After traveling the world and setting up home here in Monterey, California, he was inspired to capture his unique perspective of this scenic area. El Kallpa has been in Monterey Bay, CA since 2012 sharing music, photography, videography and more with this amazing community by the sea.


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