In 2013 she completes her Masters in Photography at the Escuela Blank Paper in Madrid.
In 2017, PHmuseum presented its first annual grant aimed at supporting women photographers. The PHM Women Photographers Grant aims to empower the work and careers of female and female-identifying professionals of all ages and from all countries working in diverse areas of photography. It further means to facilitate the growth of the new generations and promote stories narrated from a female perspective, while responding to the necessity to fight against gender discrimination within the industry.
Over the next months, Yet magazine will host a series of interviews with the recipients of the PHM 2017 Women Photographers Grant. Here is Fabiola Cedillo, winner of the New Generation Prize, in conversation with Paola Paleari.
PP: In Los mundos de Tita, you have been describing the "worlds" (as the title goes) of your elder sister Tita, who was diagnosed with Lennox syndrome when she was a child. I feel there is something very special in following the beloved ones along their daily lives and struggles through the camera lens: if on one hand the tool establishes a deeply intimate connection between the photographer and the subject, on the other it filters the complex spectrum of feelings that is at stake. My thought goes to projects such as New Life by Maurice van Es (Yet #7) or Tandem by Manon Wertenbroek (Yet #8). Can this interpretation be applied to Los mundos de Tita as well?
FC: Yes, I think so. I haven't seen Maurice van Es’ project but I know Manon personally and I know that in both projects they talk about their brothers, both of whom have difficulty with communication. In 2007, I was living abroad and I paid Tita -and my family- yearly visits. However, I didn’t take pictures until 2013, when I felt it was necessary. The feeling increased as time passed by and, even though we were physically apart, I felt closer to her emotionally. As I regularly took pictures also in other contexts and countries, this action kept reminding me of her. At that time, I was thinking a lot about Tita’s reality. The pictures I took with dark lighting were connected to my frustration about her condition, but I also took pictures in full light and colour; I think these were symbolic of the love, humour and irony I often found in my life with her, which was always unexpected and surreal.
PP: Even though Tita is a constant presence in the book, we don't see her so often. I feel a lot of human respect in this choice, which also contributes to enhancing a sense of protection and mystery around her.
FC: Despite working on this project for a few years, I took pictures of Tita only twice. The first portraits from 2013 are at the beginning of the book, and they show Tita as I saw her: fragile and sweet. Then in 2015, when I returned to my country, I was visited by Tita and my mother very often. One day, Tita came back from school, put my blouse on and asked me to take a picture of her. I saw her with different eyes and for the first time I used an entire film roll. In these photos, Tita showed herself as she wanted to be seen. I think my project differs from those by van Es and Wertenbroek because I didn’t feel the need to take pictures exclusively of Tita. She was always with me, physically or not and thus she is in all my pictures, even when she's not in the frame.
PP: You described the book as a “story halfway between documentary, essay and child adventure book”. I can see it especially in the juxtaposition of the photos shot by you and the drawings made by Tita. In a previous interview, you also said that Los mundos de Tita is not finished, but you won’t be adding photographic images. Are you still planning to develop the project? If yes, how?
FC: I was interviewed pretty long before I self-published the book. I feel differently now. Maybe I could continue with the project, but I don’t really feel it is necessary. In the past I needed to understand several things about myself and my environment, but today I look at the project as completed. Even though I keep on taking pictures of Tita when I see her, I don’t have the urge to show these photos. Tita was the real protagonist of the book. I am looking at the world through my own eyes now, in first person.
PP: As recipient of the PHM 2017 Women Photographers Grant New Generation Prize, let me ask you a question that I often pose to “female artists”. How do you feel in being called like that? Is such a label positive or limiting in your practice and the way it is communicated?
FC: When I applied for this grant I didn’t think: “Oh, this is just for women”. It was a coincidence that is was so, even though everything happens for a reason. Whenever I see a “women only” prize, I think it is a reflection of the position women have in photography: this grants exists because it is necessary to reflect about it. In Ecuador, for example, there are less job opportunities for female photographers; but I believe this is an issue all over the world, not just in my country. As for the title, “female artist”, I don’t feel it carries any particular advantages or limitations, but I know that as one, I must fight for a space that is usually occupied by men. These labels will disappear only when women will achieve equal visibility and treatment.
PP: You have a Master in Photography, you received an education in sculpture and you are currently studying psychology as part of a long distance course. How do you combine these multiple interests into your work?
FC: I actually did not finish my studies in psychology because of bureaucratic problems, but I am still very intrigued by psychology due to my inherent interest in humans. I imagine this can actually be seen in my work. Furthermore, due to the lack of a proper studio/space, I am currently not occupied with sculpture-making. However, I nurture my relationships with many other physical materials that I use in my creation process. One of this relationships is definitely with film and dark room techniques.
PP: Multidisciplinary backgrounds can be filled with obstacles, but are also richer in inspirations and references. Can you share some of yours?
FC: I don't really look so much at what other photographers have been doing. When I was studying for my Master, one of my professors suggested me not to look at others' pictures, and to take mine instead. He thought my pictures were innocent, expressive and naive, and that they were interesting for these reasons. My main inspirations actually come from paintings and texts. While I was living in Europe, I went to the museum once a week. Vincent van Gogh's paintings inspired me, not because of their style but because of their content. I was inspired by the subjects that he portrayed and I tried to imagine their lives and their relationship to the artist. Maybe that was the trigger which made me want to photograph people. Alberto Giacometti is a big source of inspiration too, in the way he is able to communicate his feelings through what he does.