Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Omar Lopex: The Photography of Pretend Families

Families come in many configurations ─ polygynous, polyandrous, extended, nuclear, blended, and the like.

But pretend families? We can find them in Sesame Street, the 
Familyquins, faux family portraits, and more broadly in ethnographies of pretend family play.

The challenge for an artist who immerses him- or herself in a theme is convincing the viewer of its significance. There needs to be a power that grabs the viewer and makes that theme important in some way. Omar Lopex gets us thinking about family once more.

Lopex makes his pretend families seem real, in part, by using photography from the distant past with tintype photographs. Everything was more real way back then, wasn't it? No Hollywood, no hucksterism, and no Photoshop. Well, maybe that wasn't the way it really was, but the Lopex's tintypes create just enough doubt that his images draw us in. Maybe that was the way it really was.

Joe Nalven: What are pretend families?

Omar Lopex: For me, defining what a pretend family is, involves defining what it's not. It's not Fantasy. It’s important for me to distinguish between Fantasy and Pretend. Fantasy implies a desire a longing a wish it has a focus a distinct aim; Pretending is rooted in the act itself. The heart of this project lies in Pretend’s open-endedness – exploration without obligation or commitment. For me, Pretending does a loop and reinforces everything else that is Real.

Omar Lopex / Pretend Family #25
JN: Are pretend families interesting in ways that are different than 'real' families?

OL: The concept of a pretend family is interesting to me, but even more interesting were the people I actually worked with. For every shoot, I was meeting someone new, and working with them on creating this lie. So each person's personality, style, their home, the ideas they contributed to what the scene in our foto should be, that was interesting in a way that a normal real family isn't.

Omar Lopex / Pretend Family #17
JN:  Are you considering other pretend families? 

OL:  I've been thinking of how to continue the project, which would involve traveling farther and collaborating with people I have less and less in common with. The thing I'm keeping in mind is how not to do it in a trite way. I don't want to create any boring work. But it does feel like the theme isn't entirely tapped. If I do it again, I also might change mediums. It would still be something analog, and in a small format though. Right now I'm shooting a lot of direct paper prints with a brownie camera, and a smaller portable darkroom (fits in a suitcase).

Omar Lopex / Pretend Family #11
JN:  Have you thought about putting these families onto other media?

OL:  If I documented the pretend families in any other media, it would have to be in something that was still small and humble. Besides being in love with the small format, the project just wouldn't work in a large format. A big picture, in this project, would’ve ruined the believability of the image. A large format foto is often too stunning. It would focus too much attention on the image as an object itself instead of the intended story in it. To work the images have to be something, but just as important they have to be nothing – they have to be something you could throw away, or something that someone else threw away and that you found.

Omar Lopex / Pretend Family #6
JN:  What kind of feedback have you gotten?
OL:  The feedback had been pretty consistent. The two things I hear the most from people are that they think the idea of working with all these different people is beautiful, and that the fotos look realistic and that they almost don't even notice that it's me in some of them. For me that's fantastic, and its what I aimed for people to get out of the project. I can be sort of a bull or an ape, kind of loud in real life, and I love spectacle, but I also have a big thing for smallness and subtlety and vulnerability.

JN:  How do you go about making these images?
OL:  I started teaching myself wet plate fotography several years ago. The work in RELÁMPAGO was all done by me, all fotos developed on the spot, in the special portable darkroom I outfitted on my motorcycle.

November 8, 2014 - February 8, 2015

Omar Lopex: Relámpago

Relámpago is Spanish for “lightning,” referring to the moments of illumination captured directly on solid metal plates for this exhibition of Omar Lopex’s intimate tintype photographs. A photograph documents reality without context: what appears to be a wide variety of traditional family portraits exploring different representations of familial relationships, is in fact a complex game of pretend. Using a motorcycle specially outfitted with a darkroom to develop images on the spot, Lopex visited four different cities to meet strangers and become a part of their family for as long as it took to shoot and develop these images. The resulting small-scale artworks draw the viewer into a fictional world, challenging the traditional concepts of identity, personal space, and familial roles.

704 Pier View Way, Oceanside, CA 92054
Tuesday - Saturday; 10am - 4pm; Sunday 1pm - 4pm
Closed major holidays
General admission $8;  Seniors 65 + $5

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