IIn 2016, Solange Knowles’ manager contacted me on Instagram and asked if I wanted to direct the art for her new album, A Seat at the Table. At the time I was working in Barcelona and had no idea that I had that kind of reach. It was my first great international commission.
I present female communities in a raw but relaxed way. Solange was interested in this, but to see if we would fit in well, we met in London and worked on a digital project for Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, an exhibition at the Tate Modern.
Then I spent a month and a half traveling the US, directing music videos, including finding places with natural or architectural beauty, and taking photographs. We were a small team; It was very lo-fi. The second part of the project was just a road trip with Solange, the director, and Solange’s assistant. It was a lot of hard work, but we had fun times.
Solange had strong ideas for the concepts she wanted to explore on the album. I would sit with her and we would translate them into visual images. We shot this for the album cover in a studio in New York. It wasn’t set up beforehand, we didn’t know what we wanted to do, other than that she wanted her face on the cover.
Her stylist was experimenting with using clips to shape her hair, and we decided to try keeping them in. I love the vulnerability – showing the styling process rather than the end result. We decided to make the cover image something in between. At the same time, Solange wanted to have this strong look, to look people in the eye.
I kept working with Solange on her next album, 2019. When I get home. It was a larger and more complex production. Coming from a different culture, and not being black, meant that I needed to listen and learn a lot.
Today I am still working on my own art projects. When brands like Dior, Nike and Helmut Lang find them interesting, they commission me to do commercial work. I also do a lot of stage art. I became obsessed with human connections and communities after a life-changing LSD trip where I could see that I was connected to the people I loved with a rope that linked our stomachs. So when I group women together for images, I relate them to each other in different ways. Sometimes they are naked, without the layers of complexity that separate me from them. Sometimes, I connect them by braiding their hair together, or with some stockings, or with clothes that I have sewn.
Women can feel scared at the beginning of a session, until they see a whole group of women comfortable in their bodies. Then they undress without fear. Then they tell me that their self-image changed as a result.
I am part of the new fashion and photography movement to be inclusive and natural. I have always been inspired to wake up in the morning with a feminine body. My mother and sister raised me and the women in my life inspired me. I could see the beauty in all of my friends, no matter what. But I could also see the hatred the woman had for their own bodies. My generation grew up with Kate Moss and the super skinny models. A turning point in my career was the realization that for decades male photographers had portrayed women as they wanted. The women hadn’t had a chance to decide what they looked like. For me, women are not a blank canvas: there is room for everyone to feel beautiful, loved and respected. I take that responsibility very seriously.
Carlota Guerrero’s CV
Was born: Barcelona, 1989.
Influences: “The divine feminine, God, LSD.”
Decisive point: “Leader a live orgy performance at Art Basel Miami. “
Low point: “Hypersensitivity: I cry every time I see someone cry.”
Better advice: “Do not let ideas die in the limbo of ideas, give them life even if you have doubts, then let them go.”
Carlota Guerrerodebut photography book I Have a Dragon Inside the Heart is published by Prestel.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism