Interview: Ana Cuba
August 16 2015
For all our insistence on empirical evidence, we are all subject to the power of suggestion, narrative and endorsement by others. A few influential bloggers declare bucket hats cool again, and suddenly they’re a thing again, despite our better judgment.
Pseudoscience, too, especially as it relates to health can be equally influential—folk remedios, rituals and bizarre diets with their attendant zealous evangelizers manage to convince many of radical benefits. Despite the fact that these tonics and practices have almost no basis whatsoever in measurable science, they nonetheless often manage to convincingly relieve us of pain, stress and illness. Photographer and art director Ana Cuba explores these semi-mystic themes brilliantly in her new project On Healing Faith.
We met Ana a few weeks ago when collaborating on a project with Amuse, a new lifestyle project from i-D and Vice that she’s currently hard at work on. She talked to us about technique, London and how she got interested in pseudosciences in the first place.
Hometown: Zaragoza, Spain
Current location: London, UK
How do you take your coffee? Flat White, and if preparing it myself, I use my aerolatte stirrer, I even travel abroad with it!
What’s your Sunday ritual? Ideally, it includes a long yoga class followed by lunch and then a siesta, of course!
Describe your style in a few words. Relaxed. Oversized with a preference towards long dresses (despite being short) and flats.
So, you just finished up your first year of an MA in Art Direction at ÉCAL, right? How was it? Such fantastic talent comes out of there.
Going back to school after working for over three years was a big challenge. The year has been as tough as it has been interesting. I’ve actually never studied at an art school before. The vibe at ÉCAL is totally different from my bachelors. However I met some amazing people and the school has great facilities. We got to travel which I loved.
Tell us about your project, Cuadernos Terranova: On Healing Faith.
I wanted to dedicate the year as a student to experiment with storytelling using topics that I find this subject fascinating and wanted to address the subject from a creative perspective. My main projects this year approached pseudo sciences, eating disorders and yoga and masculinity. The pseudosciences project On Healing Faith cached the attention through Instagram from the publishers at Terrranova and they approached me to publish it as part of a series of small books, which I’m very grateful for.
Why the intense interest in pseudosciences?
I had been wanting to do something on pseudosciences for a long time. I remember my ex-partner started to take Oscillococcinum so he wouldn’t get the flu one winter. I was very sceptical at the time and I still am. However, despite this I didn’t really want to be disrespectful to be people who believe inn these practises or position myself against clearly it. This project was really to encourage critical thinking instead, through the irony of the photographs, the text and finally, the title.
You’re Spanish and you’re a Londoner via Switzerland. How do you think all the places you’ve called home have influenced your visual sensibility and helped shape you as an art director?
I would say the geography of where I’ve lived for the past few years hasn’t really affected my visual taste, but the people and experiences I’ve met through out.
From not having any clue about what to do with my life apart the urge of moving away from my hometown, I enjoyed the beautiful life in Barcelona, London has given me a work discipline and experience that I couldn’t really get in Spain and a much broader perspective in the industry. Switzerland became a journey of self discovery!
There’s clearly a lot more involved in your work than simple studio magic. What’s in your camera bag? What other tools do you use to make your work?
People who know me would laugh at that question! I reckon I’m the worst studio photographer ever, I hate cables, plugs, studio flashes…but this year I didn’t want to do a personal photo project, but to art direct instead, so even though studio wasn’t my comfort zone and my visual aesthetic is completely different, I had this idea in my mind of using a more commercial visual language to address this topic. I haven’t really included On Healing Faith in my photo portfolio, but an art direction project instead.
I use a lot of different cameras, from a 5D to a Rolleiflex 2.8. My biggest regret is having sold my Contax T3 to save money to study this last year.
Do you have any graphic design or photography heroes?
8 years ago, I was obsessed with Hellen Van Meene’s portraits, 6 years ago I fell in love with Viviane Sassen’s Flamboya book at Paris Photo, then Elinor Carucci’s Mother project really changed my view on photography, and last year, a workshop I attended by Jason Fulford that was all about editing made my job as a photo editor more enjoyable.
What other projects are you working on at the moment?
At the moment I just moved back to London to take on the Photo Editor role an exciting new project called Amuse, a new title from i-D and Vice, launching this next week.