Cru Camara was born and raised in The Philippines. She studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York, and her work has been featured in Pitch, Thisispaper and Aint-Bad Magazine.
Cru’s images mess with reality. They explode with vibrant, pastel and neon colours and explore the limits of contrast and shadow. She tells us, ‘we still see photographs as truth,’ yet, in reality, they are simply about a point of view. Cru changes and manipulates her images to accentuate this- seeing is simply about your own interpretation. She states, ‘my unedited files look like mistakes.’ However, in the post process, they are masterfully changed from the ordinary into the beautiful.
Cru used to spend time walking and taking photographs at night. She tells us, ‘I had to figure out a way to ‘force’ the light and colour back into the image.’ She re-imagined her subjects. This gives her images a mysterious and magic quality.
The images below were taken especially for Chroma. They were shot in the Philippines, a place whose people and colours have greatly influenced her style.
Chroma talks to Cru Camara about Darkness, the Senses and Anonymity
The uniqueness, beauty and strangeness of your work comes from your post manipulation of colour. Is there a meaning behind your decision to distort/change colour?
A lot of the colours in my photographs are done with my camera lighting and tweaked in post. It’s a 50-50 process.
With photography, I’m attracted to the idea of playing around with 'reality.' It’s a medium that depends on real-life—every image captures something that once existed at a certain point in time. I like taking that organic part of it and stretching it out, messing around with it.
Oscar Wilde states, ‘every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not the sitter.’ Do you agree/ feel this quote can be applied to your work?
Yes, definitely. When it comes to photography, I think we still see photographs as truth. But every image is just a point of view, a fragmented version of reality that the photographer chose to capture. It’s all perception.
I don’t think too much about realistic representation in my work anymore. I think about it in terms of interpretation. I may create images with different subjects, but at the very core, it’s about my point of view.
How important is light and shadow to your work?
Stylistically, light and shadow are extremely important to my work. I really aim for a specific type of look to my images, and that’s only achieved under certain lighting situations. These factors also affect
the colours to a certain extent.
Several of your outside pieces seem to have been done in darkness, if this is true, why?
I used to spend a lot of time walking around at night. I started photographing in almost complete darkness and figured out a way to ‘force’ the light and colour back into the image. I didn’t really know what was in the image beforehand, I kind of just went through everything in post. I liked resurrecting these bright images from something extremely underexposed.
What inspired your shift from pastel to neon?
It was a pretty natural shift. I was doing a lot of pastel stuff, especially in my commissioned work, and I wanted to move on. The pastel work was also usually done in a studio setting, and I wanted to enjoy the flexibility of shooting outside. One day I stuck some cellophane on a couple of my flashes and walked around- that was it! Nowadays, I like to combine both palettes.
If you could only see the world in two colours, which colours would they be?
I think it would be pretty relaxing to see the world in two hues of blue. Maybe a nice sky blue for the highlights and a deep indigo for the shadows.
Your photographs often feature parts rather than wholes, why is this? Why, up till this series, have you chosen to keep the face anonymous?
I find it interesting how certain details of a subject change the way we understand it. It gives new wonder to things that seem ordinary. I also realised that I usually like to avoid specifics. I kept the faces anonymous because I wasn’t trying to convey a specific sort of personality or emotion that could be associated with these people. I like the sense of vagueness created when photographing people from the back because there’s a feeling of odd familiarity, like when you think you recognise someone in a crowd but aren’t sure it’s them. Something like that…
In this series, I wanted to show faces because these people make up a big part of the place (The Philippines). It’s not much without them. This time, I was looking for specifics.
What is your favourite body part and why?
Probably hands. Penn’s photographs of Miles Davis’ hands are among my favourite images. Subtle gestures can say just as much as words and facial expressions.
Can you tell us a little about your post-production process? Do you already know the particular mood of the image, thus the colours? Or is it a spontaneous, random choice?
My entire process has been a huge learning experience and something I’ve been building on and evolving through the years. My unedited files look kind of terrible to be honest. They usually look
like mistakes. But it’s part of the process. Now I know what it’s going to look like before I start editing. It took a lot of time and experience to get the hang of it. It used to be a spontaneous hit-or-miss process (sometimes it still is). Though now I more or less know what I want from an image. However, there are still little surprises here and there if I work on it a little longer.
If you could increase/expand one of your senses, which one would it be and why?
I’d expand my vision, more specifically my colour perception. I’d like to see more colours.
How has the landscape and aesthetics of the Philippines influenced your photography? Have you had any other inspirations for your work?
I spent a lot of my early childhood on our family farm in the province. I spent a lot of time in the sun and around nature. I still spend a lot of time there. I think a lot of the brightness in my images comes from that.
Music has been a huge inspiration as well. I listen to a lot of electronic music now, which I find kind of similar to the way I work. The processes are the same in that these musicians are taking these odd sounds from different places and putting them together to make something unconventional and distinct. It’s very similar to photography but in an aural sense.
Finally, does anything come to mind when I say red and Philippine culture?
Red is the colour of courage.
words: Emma Phillips