Say, you’re browsing the Internet. You might be expressly looking for inspiration or just relaxing your mind a little bit before going to sleep. It’s 2 a.m. and your heart suddenly skips a beat. You just witnessed a little piece of an intimate art where the animalistic feeling is so raw, so powerful yet delicate, you can barely concentrate on anything else. You need to see more; you need to find out what’s behind that creative human being that produces such a strong personal work.
This is how we believe you’d find yourself lost in amazement upon discovering the works of Spanish photographer Dara Scully, who actually needs no presentation because her art speaks for itself. Go on, keep reading. She’s waiting for you.
One of the things we find most powerful in your images is the ability to tell a story. Knowing you are also a talented writer, how often do you think the image inspires the story and vice-versa? Can you describe the creative process?
When I started shooting, the creative processes were very different. My writing was mostly narrative and my photography explored a metaphoric language that was more linked to the poetry I wrote back in the days. With the time, those two processes starting to get closer and closer, overlapping even, being always the image the one that drinks from the text, never the other way, maybe because writing was always my favorite. Now that I’ve become a “poet” – and I put it inside quotation marks because I believe that deep inside I’m still a narrator – now that my writing is getting closer to poetry, it’s natural that both paths have met.
Anyway, most of the images I create come from their own place, and sometimes, only sometimes, they look at my writing.
Your imagery has a very careful display and selection of details. How do you normally prepare for a shoot?
I generally write photographer notes; I compose the scene and write down all the little details – from the placement of an object to the position of hands – so I won’t forget them during the session. I often need to do diagrams, especially when I work with children, but it also happens that the photographs reset themselves along the way and I need to readjust so that the image I’m shooting keeps following my vision.
Writing is a strong part of your art. Can you share with us one of the pieces you did that you consider to be more special?
This is a little piece of a novel I’m writing at the moment that I believe could work:
“The teacher sometimes dreamt with the kids. It was a fragile short dream, like a haze that shook him during the night. His eyes were open. He contemplated the stillness of the room, taking notes of the sounds. It was Klara the one holding him in that dream. Klara, twelve years old, still a child. Later on, inside that beautiful robust house, in that kingdom of purity, he would find her like a stranger. Slender and earnest, fading away from the memory of his dream. Why did he dream of her? Leonora could have given him the asnwer. She’d have said, you dream of her because you love her. But Klara was a child and he didn´t love children. He loved flowers, lilies, music. He loved his books overall. However, in that dream, as in a funeral omen, it was Klara the one who held him. She took his hand between hers. She kissed his pale back, his fingers, looking for his pulse with her tongue. She gave him to drink as if he were a beast. I will quench you, if you let me, and then she opened her lips and he ate from her own flesh. He devoured her.”
You have a very personal relationship with Nature, even describing yourself as a tree. Can you tell us more about it?
To mention Nature is to say home and nest. It’s the nest where I nestle, where I breathe safely. Even though it is the forest, with its roots, trees, and gentle animals, that’s the one which truly ties me to nature. I belong to it as much as others belong to cities; I would’n´t be able to create through another prism, through other perspectives. I tried shooting indoors in the past – in houses or at a studio – but it always misses that little something which is both wild and beautiful and sometimes can save us even though it scares us.
Fantasy seems to be a big part of your world. Why do you connect with that world so often and how do you apply it to your personal photography?
I might not speak of fantasy, actually. I’ve never thought of my photography being “fantastic.” I don´t look for a literal translation but to deepen in the metaphor, to create an image that can be read as a poem does. Codes and symbols must be read from that perspective.
Fragility and childhood are common topics in your work, while honesty is present in all your images. What’s your statement with photography in relation to these? What do you want to express with it?
If the forest is the context where the action takes place, childhood are its animals – beautiful creatures like deers, foxes, and wolves. There is a natural savagery in childhood that hasn´t been suppressed by society yet, a manifested animalistic feeling. Kids rule over themselves by their instinct. If they’re hungry, they eat. If they’re thirsty, they drink. If they want to play, they play. That’s what interests me about childhood – its unspoiled, primitive state. They haven´t been altered or reconstructed. They exist just the same way as they were born.
You work both with digital and film photography. What would you say film photography gives you? What can you achieve only through this medium?
Overall, film gives me an inimitable atmosphere. Those “perfect imperfections” – the grain, dust, light leaks, blurs – cover the images and elevate them, putting them in the place where they have to be. All these things are part of my narrative codes, my language. I use them as much as the color or models. The imperfection is an element that shapes the image and make it be what it really is. Without them, it would be often impossible for me to represent the ideas I have.
Where do you find inspiration?
In foggy days, in certain movies, in some of the details that other people overlook while looking at photographs. Sometimes, an image, something insignificant – let’s say a pair of scissors, for example – takes you to a completely different place. Some other time, inspiration comes from within the forest – always there, lending its branches towards me – or in dreams.
How would you describe your relationship with photography? Can you name 3 photographers you admire and tell us why you look up to them?
I “consume” (and I put it in quotes because I think it’s quite an ugly word) photography constantly. I like to quietly observe both newcomers and those who have been there for many years. It is part of the way of learning. Being conscious of how far you can go, what can be achieved. I don’t like some photographers, some others get me bored, others seduce me… but you can always find and keep for yourself something interesting.
If I had to choose only one name, I’d say Sally Mann. If I can increase the list…it’d grow disproportionately: Ata Kando, Jock Sturges, David Hamilton, Ingar Krauss, Margaret M. de Lange, Julia Margaret Cameron, Arthur Tress, Masao Yamamoto…
Do you have any future projects ahead?
At this very moment I’m developing a new series, a more narrative one, about that darker side of childhood. I’ve dressed my boys and given them scissors, fangs, sharp knives. Let’s see what it comes from there, what powerful stories they can tell me.
See more of Dara’s work in the links below: