Sandra Torralba is a Spanish photographer with an eye for the extreme and, sometimes, the poetically confronting. Her work is distinctive and eye catching.
I think she has a real talent and is a brilliant photographer. We had a little chat.
1. Sandra, you walked away from one career to focus on photography. What brought you to that decision and was it an easy decision to make?
Maybe if it had been in any other period of my life it would have been an impossible decision to make, but at the time it was not even a decision, it just happen naturally. As I finished my therapy masters dissertation and after many years working as a therapist I was beginning to feel heavy.
My partner and I had decided that once I had finished the MSc we would move back to Spain (after 4 years abroad) and I had to stick to this agreement.
Initially I was not happy since I was frightened I was not going to find a therapist job at home but I found myself less motivated at work which made the decision easier. Also I was spending more and more time in photography related activities, so since I had no job waiting for me in Madrid I decided to do a masters in Photography as I moved back whilst I tried to find my professional space. In reality I never tried to find a therapist job. I embraced photography and this is all I have done ever since.
2. What is it about seeing the world through a camera lens that stimulates you?
When I take pictures I walk into a world of fiction and creation, a world of fantasy, a recreation of reality that is both real and a dream altogether. Being able to take pictures allow me to put out all the images I have in my mind and doing something constructive with all this energy. It also allows me to interact with reality in a different way, creating something out of it. Its like a catharsis. It keeps me balanced and happy, its extremely enjoyable, beautiful and very exciting.
3. How did you develop your photographic skills? Do you have a favourite camera and/or lens that you use a lot? Are you always “seeing” the world through an invisible camera, i.e. your eye?
For a long time I was self taught. I would just play with whatever camera I had. Then the masters in photography and even more another training in cinematographic lighting techniques guided to further growth, combined always with constant experimentation. I am no fetish with my camera, I use the one I own and when I can borrow a better one, then I borrow. I am not precious with my lenses either, I know I like wide angles but I just use whatever I need. What I am neurotic about is the concept, the mood and getting the exact image I have imagined. I don’t care that much about the means, as long as I obtain the exact image I want. And yes, I would say I kind of look at the world in a specific way, with great attention, as when we are holding a camera waiting for the right moment to shoot.
4. Inspiration strikes in many forms. What inspires you? Are there any artists, photographers, writers that you admire and draw inspiration from? Any favourite songs or films?
Everything is inspiring, music, films, artists, books, people, internet, life itself. I draw inspiration from many sources, but I don’t think they are always the same ones or unique sources. To me many things get combined until I come up with an idea. For example it can be an image I have seen, combined with a discussion I had with a friend, combined with a dream and as I amnearly falling sleep, 2 am in the morning, the idea comes up.
But to mention things I like: TV series: twin peaks, Writers: Daniel Pennac,Photographers: Erwin Olaf, Nathalie Daoust, Recuenco, Movies: City of God, Leolo
5. When you plan a photographic work, is the final work a complete reproduction of what you originally “saw” in your mind’s eye? Is there such a thing as the “perfect” shot?
I would say there is. And when I am happy with a shot it is normally because it is a very fair reproduction of what i had in mind. But ideas can be
concrete in some areas and more blurry in others. There are certain things I only see when I am already shooting, things I cannot predict, but let me
This was the draft I drew for my last image, once I had found the location, I used this to explain my idea to my team.
And this was the final image.
I tend to have a very specific idea about what I want and I stick to it. I am very controlling of my images, and perhaps the feet aren’t in the exact way I wanted them, or perhaps I hadn’t thought about them, but most of the image is absolutely defined before I start shooting.
6. You are not afraid to focus on sexually confronting issues. Is that easy for you or were there difficulties?
Let’s consider just myself alone. I started to reflect formally on sexual matters perhaps since I took the masters in sexual therapy back when I was 22. Back then, I am sure there were things I struggled with and things that I found easier to cope with.
Then as times goes by and by forcing yourself to confront your fears, prejudices, desires, by getting more experience in what others think, feel and wish for, you just become less frightened and more open about any sexual related issue. So now, I find quite easy to face/explore almost anything, but still, there are images and thoughts that are still a challenge.
The S&M picture forced me to explore a world I knew very little about and challenged me. I am glad I did it, I can now have a based
on reality idea of it and I know pushed my boundaries which to me is a necessary step for growth.
Now lets consider me in interaction with the others. Then this is a different matter. My partner, my family, they aren’t always happy about what
I do and we all have to be careful in trying to respect and understand each other. They are supportive, all of them, but what I do has consequences, and
it is not always easy, understandably.
7. How far ahead do you plan your work output? What are your current plans and what ambitions do you have for yourself and for your art?
I work on various projects at the same time, some pictures take me longer to organize, some pictures are easier to do, normally I do the later as I am organizing the former.
This month I hope doing the next 2 images of estranged sex, and between them, I just do other things.
Other than this I am focused on my first solo Exhibition in Spain (October, the 7th, in My Name’s Lolita Art Gallery, Madrid), working a lot to try to
save enough money to afford the costs.
It is not that I live only in the present, but mostly, I just wish to continue being as happy as I am, being able to do what I want, keep both my work and my life going.
Sandra, thank you and best wishes for the exhibtion in October.