Carlota Guerrero’s groundbreaking new book Tengo un dragón dentro del corazón, published by Prestel, presents a dreamlike utopia where women reign, collaborate and celebrate their power.
Hovering somewhere between fashion, straightforward portraiture, and performance art, Carlota Guerrero’s photography is a place for connection, unity, and communication. The artist’s monograph, which moves into new heights and layers since her iconic 2016 portrait of Solange, is a vast testament to female empowerment and togetherness. She staged and photographed a 30-person performance at Art Basel in Miami Beach, documented the transgender community in Cuba, and even recreated Matisse’s famous “The Dance” painting as a photograph, reclaiming the gaze from a woman’s lens.
We recently spoke with Guerrero to learn about her inspirations, career, experience collaborating with Solange, and more…
The Luupe: Your monograph contains such a wide range of work and history. Can you tell us a bit about your creative journey?
Carlota Guerrero: It just happened – it was a natural tendency since I was a teenager. I try to create timeless images that portray the things that touch my heart. Things that I think are important, and the energies that make me feel inspired.
I am a very emotional person and most of the time I am trying to deal with my complex emotions while portraying these images. Using art as a healing process, making an inventory of images with all the things that give sense to my existence.
The Luupe: One of your earliest accolades was working with Solange. We’re sure you get this question a million times, but can you tell us a bit about the collaboration?
Guerrero: We spent months working together, traveling from New Orleans to New Mexico, Austin, Dallas… in a van, shooting for A Seat at the Table and years later for When I Get Home. We also went to New York to shoot the cover for the album. I was very inspired by her way of working from the beginning. She is such a strong, talented, hard-working woman. She has a very strong and clear vision, but also gave me the space to have a strong and clear vision, and taught me about the BLM movement in great depth. I will be forever thankful to her.
The Luupe: Your monograph includes such a wide range of work. Can you talk a bit about your editing process/ how it all came together?
Guerrero: I photograph similar compositions/subjects/scenarios over and over – without thinking. I realize, later on, this behavior makes me think of a blooming orchid that doesn’t know she is doing so. I make compositions when I am thriving, I am those compositions – and many times I feel like I do not choose them, but they choose me. This book is an essay about my repetitive patterns; I curated it by tracing a map of them.
The Luupe: Rupi Kauer describes your work as a “refreshing” take on photographing women, an empowering break from a still dominated male gaze in the industry. Can you talk a bit about your approach to shifting how women are seen?
Guerrero: I am very focused on women; it is something genuine and instinctive. Being a woman is my condition and starting point. I start exploring from what I know, from what I am most family with – myself. My self-love does not differ (or should not differ) from my love for other women. I feel an infinite admiration for the woman’s figure, her power and presence fascinate me to a visceral extent.
I once photographed the trans female community in Cuba and I understood more than ever the feminine energy; a woman with a very masculine aspect (that had very few resources for transitioning) awoke in me the same energetic connection as an old friend of mine would.
To me, to photograph is an honor, to celebrate, and to thank everything that I learn from them. And the stairway, the idea of the infinite stairway of women being carried by other women from immemorial times, transmitting and passing on knowledge and intuition.
The Luupe: What’s the story behind the title?
Guerrero: The book’s title translates to ‘I have a dragon inside my heart’ and it means perseverance, persistence, and initiative. For me, the dragon lives inside my heart – this infinite force where I get my strength, my drive, and ideas from. The dragon is a wild version of god.
The Luupe: Do you see the release of this monograph as marking a shift in your career?
Guerrero: I always wanted to stop and collate my own body of work, so when the editor Ali Gitlow wrote to tell me Prestel was interested in publishing a monograph with me I thought it was a sign. It was very important for me to present this book as the finishing time of a cycle of my life.
The Luupe: What are you most excited about for your work in the near/ long term future?
Guerrero: I will be investing a lot of energy in my new studio where I want to go back to personal projects I didn’t have time in before. I hope photography will take me to a lot of experimentation, meeting new artists, exploring new spaces, and creating new communities.
The Luupe: Thanks so much for your time and insights into your career and book. In closing, if you could define your artistic practice in 5 words, what would they be?
Guerrero: Sensitivity, healing, balance, harmony, and connections.