Cesar Augusto learned the basic crafts of photography from his father, a professional photographer himself. Born in 1969, Havana, Cuba, Cesar Augusto actively assisted and later worked for many of the studios in Havana. After graduating from the Instituto Superior de Arte, Cuba’s most prestigious art university, with a major in Motion Picture Directing, in 1994, Cesar embarked on his journey to explore motion pictures and subsequently full-time photography.
Photography has been your life-long passion. How has this life-long friendship evolved over a period of time?
It has been an interesting experience. I have been taking photographs ever since I can remember. There was a time in my life that I thought photography was a small shoe for me to fill, that there was nothing else in it for me and I decided to abandon it. This was during my years in college when I decided to switch my major to film directing. I wanted to go into something bigger than photography, something that would allow me to reach higher levels and so I graduated as a film director and went on to direct music videos, short films and many TV commercials…only to realize years later that photography was my calling, my strong suit. I then realized how wrong I had been, that photography was the ultimate creative tool for me and that there was nothing more fulfilling to me than this art.
I would say that my photography has evolved over the years, from ‘technically perfect’ to ‘I don’t care how technically perfect it is’. In other words, I used to worry too much about the technique and less about the creative, conceptual aspect. Now it’s the other way around. This approach has let me relax and think more about what I’m trying to say through photography.
You have started early when SLR camera was still in its prime. Then digital photography started picking up the pace. What has been your experience of this transformation? How do you handle the post-processing formalities to bring forth the subtleties of the moment?
You are correct. I started when there were not only no digital cameras but no computers, either. Like many photographers, it took me a long time to realize that photography was evolving until I finally understood that, in order to progress as a photographer, not only in technical matters but also creatively speaking, one has to embrace digital photography. Now, I absolutely love it and have dedicated many years now to learning Photoshop and such, again because I wanted to master the technique so that I can let go of it and be free creating photography. That said, I still work from time to time with traditional cameras. I love shooting large format and still have a complete darkroom set up in my house.
How have your experiences of either side of Atlantic, in Cuba and now in the US have enriched you as an artist and chronicler of events?
When I was in Cuba I always felt the necessity to create based on the problems I was going through as a Cuban living in that society. Now, I create the problems I go through as a Cuban exile. Most, if not all, of my fine art work, has this dilemma as a base. My series ‘Broken’ is a good example of this.
Your project ‘Sueños en Papel’ is more of capturing imagery through mind’s eye. How did this project develop and come to fruition?
‘Sueños en Papel’ which translates to ‘Dreams on Paper’ is exactly that. These are some of my dreams printed on photographic paper. I, like everyone, dream every time I go to sleep and I remember all of my dreams when I wake up. I tried to recreate some of these dreams like the one of a man cutting a tornado with a pair of scissors or me trying to get myself down from a cloud. These are all dreams I’ve had.
As a visual storyteller, how do you choose your subject? Is it more pre-organised or a spur-of-the-moment mode of creation? Even for commercial projects how do you ensure the storyteller inside you is not suffocated by client’s demands?
I’m not the kind of photographer that walks around with a vest and a camera hanging from his neck. I’ve tried doing that in the past and I find it to be a waste of time. In recent years, I carefully plan my projects. First, I think of an idea and then do sketches until I know exactly what I want. Then I go and execute these ideas. Maybe this came from my years as a filmmaker but I enjoy the process of thinking, planning and then executing.
In terms of commercial work, there is always a story to tell and even though it’s true that you will have to obey your client’s demands, there is always enough freedom to be creative and to do it your way to some extent. Sometimes it’s the little things that make a commercial work something you enjoy doing, such as lighting or getting a specific look.
If the ‘Dreamer’ in you is allowed a flight of fancy where will it lead to?
I’m a certified advanced scuba diver and would love to one day find an amazing location underwater that would allow me to create unique photos. I’m talking about photos that no one has ever seen like awesome underwater panoramas or something like that.
Cesar Augusto prefers…
Charlie Chaplin’s Autobiography left an indelible mark on Cesar. Living in Chicago, Blues happens to be his favourite music. El Lado Oscuro del Corazón ‘The Dark Side of the Heart’ is his favourite movie. He has a weakness about Indian food. Cesar loves holidaying in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Find more of his work at his website.