Pictures and words by Ian Howorth
Interview by Valentine Dreyfus
Can you describe yourself in a few words?
I’m a photographer based in Brighton, England. I’m originally from Peru, but have lived away from my homeland for the last 25 years.
Can you tell us about your art and what was it that sparked this passion?
I started out in video and had aspirations to be a cinematographer - image making has always been my passion, but doing video requires a lot of patience and output can be quite low. I stumbled upon photography by chance really - I’d always had a digital camera, but a friend lent me his film camera and that really grew my interest in stills.
What is the best lesson you have learned working in your photography?
Patience oddly enough. Not everything happens immediately, both in terms of career progression but in terms of artistic development. It's an ever evolving thing, and for it to evolve, we have to try, fail and then try again. But there are always lessons to be learnt from every project - the important thing is to really think about what could have been better and try to apply that knowledge to the next thing.
Who or what are some of your inspirations?
I’m inspired by a variety of things - sometimes the inspiration is technical, other times the inspiration emotional - what these are applied to is entirely down to the specific project. For me it's important to try to apply a visual style that ‘speaks’ the language of the emotion you’re trying to convey.
Can you tell us more about your residency project at Zūnya? The idea, the concept, the story you wanted to tell and the challenges you faced!
I think for me it was important to try and create a project that was in tune with the land and what it represents but at the same time try to create something visually interesting.
Costa Rica as a country has a rich history in conservation and sustainability and I feel Zūnya is incredibly respectful of that and is really pushing a sustainable way of life as being integrated into normality as possible.
I knew from the off, that the main challenge was going to be time - time to understand what was around me in a way I could communicate visually what I wanted to say.
I knew there would be a degree of frustration in allowing myself time to just absorb the place without shooting much knowing I had a set amount of time to complete the project.
What I realised very soon was that some of my ideas sought to interpret the land to literally as a way to explain all the good that is happening in the region.
However, I realised that some of the magic of the Nicoya peninsula and it's proximity to a Blue Zone has with it an air of mystery. After this, everything became a little easier to figure out.
First and foremost I wanted to try to show the importance of the land - what we get from it and how we integrate its use.
At Zūnya - a relatively young endeavour - so much is already being done to try and sustain the negative impact we have as a species. From energy to the impact we have on the soil.
What struck me is how much everyone lives and breathes it, and how much is done to really prove the concept - dry toilets and cold showers - might not sound like a great thing on paper, but not only is it a simple way to be kinder to the environment, they are also two aspects of my stay at Zūnya that I enjoyed the most.
I think for someone like me who shoots in colour and with film specifically, it was a huge challenge to shoot digitally and in black and white - however, I wanted to see if I was up to the challenge of trying to deal with the potential abstraction of black and white as opposed to the matter of factness of colour.
What have you learned, shared and left behind during this residency?
I learnt so much - a lot of it about myself and what I seek in life. The kindness of people both at Zūnya and in the region has left its mark on me.
I always feel energised when some of the pleasures of life can be found in very simple things and experiences. The power of the sea to heal and to calm, a common understanding that the land as a provider has to be respected is a great way to unify people who are working towards a common goal.
What personal projects can we look forward to from you next? What are you enjoying exploring at the moment?
I’m embarking on a project in late May in southern Spain where I'll be based for 2 weeks initially. I’ll be working with a very close friend of mine who is an investigative journalist for a piece we hope will shed some light on some key issues surrounding the environment. Suffice to say, it’s something I’m incredibly excited about as its a departure to how I’ve worked before.
What message would you like to share with our readers?
I think being mindful is something everyone can do - just doing a little here and there can be a big step to help changing perceptions - both your own and outside oneself. Ultimately, if we were all to do a little of this, we would get much further to protect what already gives us so much. To be able to take out of the pot, we have to put a little in.