Always dressed in black, glasses made of pasta, with his white hair and beard, Miguel Oriola He did not leave anyone indifferent. That aesthetic and her way of expressing herself, sometimes cutting, always direct, moved her to her transgressive, black photography, which drank from the radical language that developed in Japan in the sixties around the authors of the Provoke group. In his work he often traveled through sordid territories, which left an unsettling feeling, exacerbated by the way he handled light. All this earned him a label of enfant terrible in which he was comfortable. Oriola, who died on Tuesday in Madrid, at the age of 77, began to be noticed in the early seventies, as a regular at the magazine New Lens, a project that wanted to break with the past of Spanish photography from a playful and provocative spirit, in line with the beginnings of the Transition.
Born in Alcoy (Alicante) in 1943, he tried other disciplines, such as drawing and music, before turning to photography, a trade he learned as an assistant in the studio of photographer José Vicens, in his hometown. He arrived in Madrid in 1964, where he studied Dramatic Art and started as free lance. At the beginning of the seventies he mounted his first exhibition in the capital; Head of photography at an advertising agency, he won the Negtor Prize in 1974, then an important commercial competition. He is part of a renewing generation that includes, among others, Joan Fontcuberta, Eduardo Momeñe, Pablo Pérez-Mínguez and Jorge Rueda.
Oriola manages to take off, is dedicated to teaching, founded in 1980 his own magazine, POPtography, and her studio, where she works in advertising and fashion, especially with the designer Sybilla, fields from which she will make her way of life, traveling around the world. In the middle of that decade he collaborated on several occasions with The weekly country, he also did it with Penthouse, Vogue, Elle o Cosmopolitan.
In parallel he develops his personal work, in which his scathing gaze is accentuated over the years, which hardens his photography, with crude images, such as those in his series Phenomena (1999): “I like to face rough photos and come out with flying colors,” he said; it also includes violence or sexuality, or sometimes combines both. The nude portraits star in several of his works, such as Nothing Personal, with shocking, daring snapshots. “I have never dedicated myself to erotic photography, what I have done are portraits of people without clothes, which is different,” he said with his peculiar humor in an interview in the magazine Red eyes, in 2012. On some occasion he defined his work as “a hallucinatory quality, a flow of emotions that generate imperfect images”.
Since his death was known, many former students have expressed their sorrow and admiration for Oriola, who taught since 1977, especially in the International Center of Photography and Cinema, EFTI, from Madrid, a school to which he had been linked for more than thirty years, where he directed a master’s degree in fashion photography. These pupils wanted to remember some of the phrases he left in his classes: “If you don’t know what to do, start”, for example, and his blunt but close character. Agustín Pérez de Guzmán, director of EFTI, remembers his “charisma and how teaching young people gave him life.” “He was an illuminating teacher, he deserved the National Photography Award years ago, but since he was not a purist in his images. I think that in Spain it has not been recognized as it should be ”, he adds.
He was also a regular lecturer, as could be seen, among others, at the Gijón Meetings in 2018, where he left his desire to enjoy life and have fun, an exhibition at the Barjola Museum and one of his famous sentences: “You have to photograph with your stomach.”
Oriola exhibited, among other centers, at the Círculo de Bellas Artes (1995) and at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, where there is his work in the permanent collection, as well as museums in Japan, Finland and Austria. PhotoEspaña dedicated a retrospective to him, in 2002, for his 30-year career, and his images could be seen in four editions of Arco. Those who want to enter the rebelliousness of his work can do so through some of his books, such as Alphaville (2013), Sketch 5 (2015) o News (2017), in short, in a work in which, he proclaimed, he tried to find beauty on the dark side.
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