What started as an online communication between two photography fiends, has turned into a longterm friendship, cohabitation and, more than anything, a strong collaboration between two pairs of discerning eyes.
Thirty-something photographers Salva López and José Javier Serrano, who goes by the name Yosigo, share an academic background in graphic design which has profoundly influenced their creative identity as well as their visual understanding of composition and space. Aside from graphic design remnants, like an obsession with symmetries and chromatic parallels, their photographic work denotes an admiration for the master of the banal, Stephen Shore.
Yosigo has just printed his first book, Riu Avall, and Salva’s work has been featured in such prestigious publications as Monocle, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg. Together they started Have A Nice Book, a project dedicated to their common love: photo books and fanzines. Through extensive research and a lot of rummaging in bookshops the world over, they showcase their favorite printed genre in videos, perusing book after book. Inside their online – and offline – nook, photography is ubiquitous.
How did you guys meet?
Yosigo: We met online through Flickr. As it turned out, Salva’s ex-girlfriend used to spend her summers in Donosti, where I was staying back then. During one of her visits, I finally met with Salva for beers and we put a face to each other’s online handles.
When did your relationship with photography begin?
Yosigo: I’ve always been passionate about photography; the ability to freeze an instant and keep it forever seemed fascinating. My serious involvement in it began when I started studying graphic design, when photography became one of my main subjects.
Salva: For me, it started quite late – in 2007, when I bought my first digital reflex camera. After that, I was obsessed with photography and wanted to turn it into my profession, not just a hobby.
Both of you are graphic design graduates. How does that influence your current work?
Yosigo: It defined the way I understand image, composition and the use of space. Before having any photographic references, I was inspired by Max Huber, Otl Aicher, Josef Müller-Brockmann and Paul Rand.
Salva: Graphic design revealed a wider visual culture. Actually, it’s funny, at first, quite a few critics said that my pictures were too well-composed.
When did you realize you wanted to make a living as photographers?
Salva: I never planned it, but I knew I wanted to turn it into my profession.
Yosigo: I didn’t think about it at all. I was working as a graphic designer for a company and little by little I started getting photo assignments. I was afraid of using photography to pay the rent – I thought I might lose my creativity and motivation to photograph. However, I slowly learned how to combine my personal work with my professional one.
Yosigo: “Graphic design defined the way I understand image, composition and the use of space.”
How different is your professional photography to your personal work?
Yosigo: They have a lot in common in many respects. That’s because most of the assignments come from people who are familiar with my personal style. The client sees the work and, if they want that style, you’re booked for the job. But still, there are times when the two are completely different.
Salva: Nowadays, it’s crucial to have your own signature aesthetic. Your work has to be easily recognizable. I try to keep my personal and professional work in the same stylistic spectrum.
Your main collaborative project is Have A Nice Book. How did you come up with the idea?
Yosigo: It basically came out of our common passion for photography books and fanzines. We created an online platform to show each other all the books we came across during our travels, through short videos. Instead of using e-mail transfers, we set up a website so that other people could watch our book videos too. The most difficult part was coming up with a name for it. We had the whole idea in mind and as soon as we got the name we started recording and uploading videos showing all kinds of photo books.
What’s so special about photo books in your opinion?
Salva: I think they’re the best way to review photographic work, although not all types of photography agree with this format. Nowadays there’s a trend of making photo books, when maybe that’s not always the best way to show your work.
Yosigo: It’s a great medium to share your photographic essays. What I particularly like is the merging of all these different aspects: graphic design, curation and artistic concepts.
Which is the best book you’ve ever held in your hands?
Yosigo: I don’t remember. I remember the first book I ever got as a present – it was by Stephen Shore. Back then, I was more into the technical virtuosity and didn’t understand anything visual. Over time, it has become one of my absolute favorite books.
Salva: The first that comes to my mind is Lebensmittel by Michael Schmidt.
Have you ever bought a book because of its cover?
Salva: Sure, many times.
Yosigo: Yes, me too. It’s the same with music, sometimes you just buy an album because of its cover. The design component is indeed very present in publications. It’s not a bad thing to feel attracted to a book on account of its design. Of course, a great photobook has to combine good design with even better photography. Having said that, I’ve also bought bad-looking books that featured amazing photography.
Who are your favorite photographers of all time?
Yosigo: Stephen Shore, Alec Soth, Joel Sternfeld, Paul Graham and William Eggleston.
Salva: Apart from those, I’d add Michael Schmidt, Mark Steinmetz and John Gossage.
Let’s talk about your own books. Riu Avall is your first book, Yosigo, what is it about?
Yosigo: It’s not really my first publication, although it can be considered as such. It’s about a trip I took through the Llobregat river which runs through a big part of Catalonia and ends in Barcelona where it flows into the Mediterranean. The book’s main topics are desolation, nostalgia and decadence.
Salva: “Nowadays, it’s crucial to have your own signature aesthetic.”
You’ve recently moved to a new studio in El Poblenou. How did you find this area?
Salva: This area is really moving forward, it has seen a lot of positive changes. There’s great potential here.
Yosigo: I love this area, it feels like being outside the city. Many young creatives have their workshops here, and that creates a nice atmosphere. We share the studio with the guys from Ölend Bags and the graphic studio Querida – it’s such a pleasure to work with them in the same space. Working in a space like this and not at home is the best decision I’ve made in a very long time.
What are your future plans personally and professionally?
Yosigo: I just arrived in this city, so to speak. I would like to spend a few more years here, charge my batteries and move back to the north of Spain. I’d like to keep working in the same field and live between Hondarribia and Barcelona.
Salva: I have no clue. Right now, we are building a new photographic studio called Rocafort to work in fashion photography. Let’s see how it goes. In the future, I’ll probably continue living in Barcelona, taking pictures. Maybe I’ll try out new disciplines, such as product or interior design, who knows. I’ve always been restless.