Cristobal Olivares on his -42 project

Cristobal Olivares talks to us how his -42 project developed without much pretension, not other than capturing his experience and relation with the freezing temperatures in Canada.

From the series -42 © Cristobal Olivares

Cristóbal Olivares (Santiago, Chile 1988) is a documentary photographer with an interest in contemporary social affairs. Represented by VII Photo / Mentor Program and Co-founder of Buen Lugar Ediciones. Olivares' is the recipient of the National Council for the Culture and Arts Grant for "A-MOR Project", Young Photographer of the year. "Rodrigo Rojas Denegri Award". National Council for Culture and Arts. Chile, Open Society Foundations Audience Engagement Grant. NY, USA, First place news stories. Salón Nacional de Fotografía de Prensa. Chile, among many more.

His work mainly focuses on Portrait, Social Issues and Contemporary Issues in his homeland and he is currently based in Chile.

How did you get into photography?

At home we always had a camera to photograph the family parties and holidays. With my brother and cousin we would take the camera to have fun, this of course without our parents’ permission, and back then in Chile film was very expensive to buy. Later on, I started to do things that in one way or another led me to photography. I used to skateboard non-stop for 6 years and that experience taught me to be in the streets. I was also so into magazines (mainly about skate) which of course was not only about skate tricks, but also the documentation of a life style. A while after, my older brother, Alejandro, studied photography and that helped me to get deeper into the topic of photography a little bit more, and well, from then the interest started to grow more and more.

How did your project -42 come about?

In 2010 I put on hold my photography studies and I went to travel Canada from East to West. During this time, I lived for a while with my mother, she had gone to live to Winnipeg a few years ago. During the time I visited her it was Winter, but it was a completely unknown winter to me due to where I come from. Everything seemed to complicate more and more, I wasn’t able to stay long in the streets and I had to be so careful with my digital camera, which would either freeze or condensate. So I started to go out only with my Holga camera, which is made out of plastic and it only has a few wires to capture. There was no need to be careful with this camera and the act of photographing seemed more natural to me using this camera. On the grounds of this, the project developed without much pretension, not other than capturing my experience and relation with this climate in physical and psychological terms. To understand people’s life and my mother’s new life who next to her new husband, Patrick, are fundamental part of this project. In addition, I was able to get closer to my mother, to know her and understand her better. She is an immigrant and I was too for a short period. In January 2015 I went back to Winnipeg and the effect was the same.

From the series -42 © Cristobal Olivares

All of your personal projects have in common that take place in your home country, Chile. In contrast, for your project -42 you went to Winnipeg, Canada to visit your mother. Tell us how was this experience to photograph in a location where you are the foreigner and your surroundings are unknown. How was that photographic dynamic?

My first trip abroad was to Canada. Before that I only had a few years photographing. This trip helped me to understand “why to photograph?” (however, I am always asking myself the same question). Also the placer to experiment and to keep myself learning. The photographic dynamic is not only to be standing in front of the person that you wish to photograph, it is so much more than that. To me is a lot about being in the present, looking at whats happening here and now, to hear stories, languages, ideas. The act of photographing is many times an excuse and the end result photograph is a record of all of that. I have been fortunate to photograph in other countries after this first trip. Like most people, I like traveling and at the same time I like to photograph what’s happening in my own country. When I came back to Chile from this first visit to Canada many things were happening in Chile, that involved me directly, I was interested in seeing them closely and register them in order to explain to myself these problems and to create an opinion about it.

The way you photographed this project is very different to your other personal projects. Could you talk a little bit about your approach, which seems less controlled.

I think each story is different and it has a different impact on me and that affects directly the way in which I perceive and how I want to photograph a story. I feel like that’s where the challenge of this practice is too. To look for new ways to tell a story. To me is pretty impossible to photograph everything the same way. A photograph - or a photographic project - to me is like music or a record, for instance, you have the idea, meetings, feelings, execution, time management, etc. Then you put all of that work in your record and the songs play in an order that also want to transmit something. For your third record, if you do the same as you did for your first one, is going to be so boring.

From the series -42 © Cristobal Olivares

To finish with. Can you talk to us about your book publishing. How’s your editing process when you are going to print a photo-book?

Talking as a member of Buen Lugar Ediciones: First of all, it has to be a project that interest us, and of which we see an intension and potential. Aside from looking at the images, I always look for other things that can help me with the general idea or help with the design: whether is a notebook, an object, manuscript, etc. Then, depending on the nature of the work, I gather some information, but not too much, to not lose the opportunity to imagine an original story. From there, I try to give shape to something, then of course comes the printing, to see the images on the table, make a sketchbook to see how the edit flows in a book form, check the papers, etc all of these phases in constant dialogue with the author. I don’t think this process differentiate much from any other publishing company or editor, the idea of Buen Lugar Ediciones is that we get everything done in a friendly and close enviroment, where we can create a relationship with the authors. We are three people working at Buen Lugar Ediciones. Alejandro - my brother - and my partner, Aribel González, art director and designer. So, we are pretty much a family based business, where we all have the same level of opinion.

In the case of A-MOR, my first book with Buen Lugar Ediciones, the work was thought for a long time, but it wasn’t until the last year that we started to see it with more clarity, then we settled a date for the book to enter the printing house and then things started to flow really well within the normal parameters of stress, haha. I really like the process of editing and generally for my work I do a lot by myself until I decide to pass on a sketch to somebody, in this case was to the photographer Nicolás Wormull - was our invited editor - and also Christopher Morris helped me with his advice. Parallel to all of this process Aribel is who is encharge of all the magic of design, in response to what she perceives during the editing and the topic as such. This is a team work and very circular work.

To learn more about Cristobal Olivares visit his PHmuseum profile

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