Universe of Photographer Fernando Delgado

Santafe.com - February 21, 2012

"In 2005, Delgado left New York and moved to New Mexico to concentrate on making fine-art photographs"

Cuban-born Fernando Delgado attended the Cooper Union School of Art and the Parsons School of Design, in New York City, where he studied with graphic designers Herb Lubalin, Henry Wolf and Milton Glaser. Working in the advertising game on Madison Avenue, Delgado was the creative director on fashion accounts such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, and co-authored "Exhibit A: Guy Bourdin"—a book of innovative images by the French fashion photographer. In 2005, Delgado left New York and moved to New Mexico to concentrate on making fine-art photographs. Delgado has a plethora of collectors, and his work has been exhibited throughout the United States.

I credit my mother with laying my artistic foundation; she was the dreamer and the visionary in our family. The '70s and 80s in New York City were my brick-and-mortar years, where I was fortunate to study with Louise Nevelson, William Klein, Herb Lubalin and Henry Wolf—a learning experience that was meaningful and life-changing. From my first year at Cooper Union to my last year at Parsons School of Design, I was convinced I was going to be an illustrator. Then I met the renowned art director Henry Wolf. His assignment to me was to present a visual interpretation of the word "shocking." Upon seeing my detailed illustration, he asked, “How did this image reveal itself to you?” “I saw a photographic image,” was my response. He asked, “Then why did you illustrate it? Always trust that first instinct.” After that lightning-bolt moment, it became clear to me that my creative instinct would be forever linked to the photographic medium. I’ve never turned back.

Composition, composition, composition
After more than 25 years in the advertising industry—promoting, scrutinizing and working with thousands of images—approaching my own work was a daunting task. I knew a visual palate-cleansing was in order. Moving to New Mexico was a catalyst for change. The desert was the place to reflect, replenish, refocus—and I was ready. My eyes re-awakened to the singular quality of the light and how it defines form and space, so I knew I’d found my sanctuary. Through the teachings of Arthur Dow, via Georgia O’Keeffe, I learned the importance of always filling a space in a beautiful way. The process of paring things down to the essence of an idea is a discipline that I deliberately impose on whatever I do. As O’Keeffe once said, “Nothing is less real than realism … it is only by elimination, by emphasis that we get to the real meaning of things.”

light, texture, shape, and form
I suppose anyone can photograph a flower as it is. However, my role is to photograph that flower as it is felt. I feel a need to connect with my subject, and at times that happens immediately or it can take time. I prefer the studio, where I control the light as well as the subject. It is a calculated process where I strip away any reference to scale and context. Through my own process of elimination and emphasis, the spirit of these natural forms is revealed. A unique transformation takes place and other universal symbols begin to emerge. Nature for me is about personal interpretation rather than documentation.

Attention to detail
My process of working with the still life is quiet and meditative. I get to choose my subjects; they don’t speak, eat or need to go to the bathroom. They are willing and present—they are my clay. I concentrate on the light and how it defines form and space. It is a beautiful, serene, and transcendental dance.

The power of black-and-white imagery
Black-and-white photography for me is about pure energy and communication; one of the reasons why they are intrinsically associated with photojournalism. When viewing a color image, I react to the color energy first, and to content second. A black-and-white image levels the field of vision—tonality, form, space and content are in perfect balance.

My fascination with fashion
Beyond fashion, what fascinates me is the psychology and seduction of fashion. Fashion is about ideas, the way we live, what is happening. It is one of the few public arenas where freedom, fantasy and sensuality are still a possibility. My favorite fashion images are about an idea—they are at once visceral, elegant and mysterious. The notion of impossible beauty as a direct result of absolute control fascinates me. Guy Bourdin, Helmut Newton and Richard Avedon are my heroes and a perpetual source of inspiration.

Controlling color
Everyone has an instinctive eye and reaction to color as it relates to life around us. It is hard, especially in photography, to fool this sixth sense. When color is real, it energizes and excites the senses—we don’t question it. In contrast, when color tips the saturation point for its own sake, our eyes know it. Eloquent use of color, in my opinion, is a question of restraint—idea before execution.