Inside this issue
Abelardo Morell was born in Havana, Cuba in 1948. He immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1962. Morell received his undergraduate degree in 1977 from Bowdoin College and an MFA from The Yale University School of Art in 1981. In 1997 he received an honorary degree from Bowdoin College.
In 2012 I paused by my local river and everything changed. I’ve moved away from what many expect photographs to be: my images deconstruct the literal and reimagine the subjective, reflecting the curiosity that water has inspired in my practice. Water has been my conduit: it has sharpened my vision, given me permission to experiment and continues to introduce me to new ways of seeing.
In the early nineties, Abelardo Morell’s decision to photograph the Camera Obscura effect led to an exploration of the interaction between the outside and the inside, initially in black and white and later in colour. He subsequently devised a portable room – effectively a tent fitted with a periscope – which enabled him to take his work outdoors, first into the desert and then into American National Parks. His images of the landscape have an impressionistic quality, but for me their magic lies in the harmonious juxtaposition of the view with the pattern, colour and texture of the ground below.
Although you’d been inspired by the images you’d seen as a child I believe you came to study photography by chance - you were an engineering student but took a photography course in your second year at college? What was its appeal to you and how did this change the course of your studies and subsequent career?
When I was young I wanted to study engineering so when I went to college that’s what I took courses in; it was a total disaster. I flunked Physics and Math - I went into a spiral of depression. I decided to take a Photography course in the Fall of 1969 and it was instant love and fire. I think that I had a visual intelligence that was much better than the scientific path I was on. Really, I felt that I had found a language and a structural way to look at the world that was intuitive and personal.
You’ve commented on the significance of having a good teacher and mentor, and that when successful the relationship broadens and the knowledge imparted is not confined to photography?
John McKee was my photography teacher at Bowdoin College in 1969 and the way he taught it was not so much about f stops but rather about how discovery is tied up with linking music, art and poetry to photographic vision. His approach was perfect for the way I thought and understood things. I owe him a lot.