When I was a kid, growing up in Bogota, Colombia, my favorite games were drawing and making clothes for my dolls. As far as school was concerned the only subject that held my interest was art. At home, I would spend hours staring at the family photo albums with absolute fascination.

My brother kept a 220 Kodak camera in his room, and before long, I was sneaking off with it to take bad pictures of my dogs. Then it went from there . . .

When I was in high school I convinced my mom to buy me a camera so I could take pictures for the school paper. But the real reason was so that I could take pictures of boys I liked. I didn’t see the artistic potential in photography yet, so I focused my creativity on painting instead. I was always fascinated with the human form and so I spent the next three years painting figures.

How I ended up stumbling back into photography was one of the happiest random accidents of my life. In 1997 my mother suggested that I study industrial design. I loved the element of graphic design but hated the 3-D aspect of the assigned projects.

I quickly moved away from industrial design and switched to the study of fine arts, with the intention of becoming a video artist. I was very into video, cinema and the art of moving pictures. I had always had a particular fondness and been greatly influenced by the work of several artful filmmakers, namely Peter Greenaway, Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch, and the video artists Nam June Pyke and Bill Viola.

I was on the track of what I wanted to do, but I still didn’t feel like I was living up to my creative potential. So in 1999, I gave up my family, my country and my friends and I moved to Chicago, not quite sure what I wanted to do.

Soon after coming to Chicago, I got a job working in a photo lab. My design skills seemed to impress the owner enough to hire me. Not long after working there, I discovered that by working with other peoples’ pictures, photography could be a beautiful medium of expression! After years of trying various outlets for my artistic passion - painting, drawing, design, video – I had returned to the medium that fascinated me as a child, when I used to sit for hours looking at old, family albums. Now, ironically enough, I was doing this and getting paid for it!

Going through other people’s photographs, I became aware that my fascination with photography had to do with the magical way that it froze instants in time, preserving them forever, in a sort of modern mummification of a person’s life. Once this notion arose in my mind, I set out to do whatever it took to become a photographer. As a result of an active social life (I love going out and find great inspiration in nightlife) my subject – people – were in constant supply. I would often use my friends and also myself as a model. And the tool – a Nikon camera – would quickly become my best friend and partner in crime.

And so I decided to enroll myself into some classes at a community college in order to learn all the basics. In my first photographs I would combine the video images of my subjects within the picture, to reflect the self-imitating, self-conscious wants, needs and desires of my models.

After exploring this photo/video aesthetic for a couple years, I moved away from the TV screen, and into a more intimate form of visual exploration. Influenced by the works of Helmut Newton, David Lachapelle, Terry Richardson, Tony Ward and Patrick Demarchelier, I became fascinated by the world of fashion, fetishism and eroticism. I began modeling for other photographers which led me to use myself as a subject more than ever before. Not only for the sake of convenience, but because the core of my work – the transforming self image – was easier to express with myself as the subject.

And this is the major aesthetic of “alt-er-ego” – and the central theme of my work. How we change when we are transformed into an image. We are never exactly “ourselves” when the camera’s sharp eye is pointed at us. We are “altered” by the act of being captured. A different personality arises. Something new is seen. We are changed.

But into what? The photograph brings out the unconscious, the hidden aspects of who we are, (and who I am.) An instant, forever frozen in time.
Testimony of the other.

All Images Copyright Alejandra Guererro 2006