When music stops being only an auditory experience and becomes both visual and physical, it is brought to a new level by the artist. Conductor Pablo Heras-Casado is one such artist. He chooses to put aside the usual tool of the trade—the baton—to conduct powerfully, expressively, and passionately with only his hands, which makes me envision him forming the music from the orchestra like a sculptor forms with clay.
When Heras-Casado conducts, it is a physical event. He has a lot of power and presence, but there is also a corporeal quality about the music he brings out. It’s as though he intends to reach out and grab the notes, then shape them with his hands right in front of the audience’s eyes.
This is the feeling I wanted to bring to life in the photos.
We set up the photo shoot at Pablo’s home in a quiet, historic neighborhood in Granada. In order to keep the focus on his hands, we used a clean, uninterrupted setting. We crafted a simple set, even down to his wardrobe of a crisp, linen shirt, highlighting his Mediterranean heritage. That way, the focus would be drawn to Pablo and his hands, but also to this massive mound of earth-colored clay.
I love the metaphor that the clay represents: the conductor creating a physical embodiment of the music. For the shoot, the clay itself was quite heavy at nearly five kilos, which added to the effect I was looking for. The effort of holding and working this clay during the shoot was almost exhausting, and we had to take a break a few times. That physical effort is clear on Pablo’s face, just as it is present when he conducts.
This project was a favorite of mine because it was an opportunity to create memorable, even iconic images of the artist in the intimate, relaxed space of his home. It was as though he was in his natural element, while exposing his art for the camera. In this way, we were able to create photos that will stay with the viewers, even haunting them a little after they walk away.