Creative Brief: Nacho Alegre

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Last summer marked 10 years since Nacho Alegre and his partners, Omar Sosa and Marco Velardi, co-founded Apartamento magazine – a publication which, since its inception in 2008 in Barcelona, has peered into the interiors of people’s homes through the prism of their lives. As of October there’s even an Abrams-published book, The World of Apartamento, to prove it. Succinct and delightfully subjective, the biannual magazine has become synonymous with direct, characterful interviews and unmistakable images, in features which team some of contemporary culture’s best-loved figureheads with photography talents original enough to capture them as they have never been seen before. A photographer by trade, Alegre is also known for his fashion shoots and creative still lifes.

How did you first start taking photographs?
When I was in my first year of law school a friend took me to a photo club where we could develop our own film. There I met some ‘real’ photographers, and that’s when I began looking and shooting in a different way. I’d go to Kowasa, which was one of the best photobook shops in Europe [now closed] and spend hours sitting there looking at books. The small scene in Barcelona was all built around a magazine called ABarna. The things I really liked were abroad, far away in places like New York or London, but in Barcelona it was easy to meet people doing things, and everyone was quite happy to meet other people who were doing stuff. Maybe that magazine and the scene around it wasn’t so interesting photography-wise – looking back, it was quite naive, but in a way unique too. What I learned very well from it is the value of creating a community.

How did you come to start Apartamento?
When I started shooting, I couldn’t find many jobs in Barcelona, so I travelled around Europe to shoot bands, or for friends’ magazines. Since the jobs were badly paid – in fact, they could hardly be considered ‘jobs’ – I was mostly staying at friends’ places on sofas, and so, of course, I began to shoot them. I had just moved out of home and I had a narrow idea of how people lived, so for me to see how people did it in other places was really inspiring. In 2008, Omar, Marco and I thought of making a small fanzine of those pictures of spaces and homes. Then, since we had other friends who were also photographers, we thought of including them too. And then, we thought the subject was interesting enough to give it more depth and turn it into a proper publication.

Vince Aletti, New York City, issue 15. Image © Jason Nocito

What characterises a typical Apartamento image?
Interior photography is, by its nature, objective – it aims to document a reality in a true way, unaffected by feelings or interpretation. Our point is that a picture of an interior is a psychological portrait of the person inhabiting the space. Those interiors cannot be detached from the inhabitant’s idea of their own life – they respond to a fantasy of oneself the same way that fashion does. To shoot them in an objective way, overlooking the subject, doesn’t show the true idea of an interior. So, through photography, we’ve been exploring ways of bringing subjectivity to those pictures.

How do you find new photographers?
Lately, through Instagram. It gives me vertigo sometimes, the amount of excellent photographers there are out there. Of course only a few are exceptional. We also receive a lot of emails from photographers. It’s hard because many have good stuff, and they show talent, even if it’s raw. I find it painful when we don’t pay attention to one of these photographers and a few years later they become superstars. It’s happened a few times.

What advice would you give to an aspiring photographer?
To shoot as much as you can. Hang around with other photographers and editors and publishers, talk to them, exchange opinions, get drunk, build a community. Go to shows, read about photography, think about it. Don’t be jealous, and enjoy the work of others. Basically, live and enjoy photography as much as you can. You might never make it, and even if you make it you may never earn a euro, so you’d better love it. The World of Apartamento: Ten Years of Everyday Life Interiors is published by Abrams Books, priced €50

Esther Mahlangu, Weltevreden, issue 10. Image © Nico Krijno
Javier Mariscal, Barcelona, issue eight. Image © Nacho Alegre
The World of Apartamento: Ten Years of Everyday Life Interiors, published by Abrams
The World of Apartamento: Ten Years of Everyday Life Interiors, published by Abrams
The World of Apartamento: Ten Years of Everyday Life Interiors, published by Abrams
Self-portrait © Nacho Alegre
Diane Smyth

Diane Smyth is a freelance journalist who contributes to publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The FT Weekend Magazine, Creative Review, The Calvert Journal, Aperture, FOAM, IMA, Aesthetica and Apollo Magazine. Prior to going freelance, she wrote and edited at BJP for 15 years. She has also curated exhibitions for institutions such as The Photographers Gallery and Lianzhou Foto Festival. You can follow her on instagram @dismy