Rodolfo Vanmarcke Explains Why His Photography Is Malicious

We can only see so many decapitated My Little Ponies before we crave a return to the fundamentals of art. So every so often we seek refuge in the purity of black and white photography. "Inverses," currently on view at a new Wynwood gallery called Lunch Box, is 15 stunning images from photographer Rodolfo Vanmarcke's series "Inverso-símil" and "Inverso-símil en Clave Cóncava."

But hang on, not all is what it seems to be. Through Vanmarcke's lens, the world seems inside out, flipped on its head. The photog freely admits to some malicious camera play. At first, it was the casual distortion offered by nearby puddles. But that soon led to more deliberate trickery with a magnifying glass. In the following Q&A, we asked him about his choice to dupe viewers with more "analog" tricks instead of Photoshop tweaks.

New Times: What was your inspiration behind the "Inverso-símil" and "Inverso-símil en Clave Cóncava" series?

Rodolfo Vanmarcke: People find it very funny when I say that the

inspiration behind "Inverso-símil" happened involuntarily. It was

actually after a naïve experience, when I was strolling the streets of

NY after a rainy day and I saw an image reflected on a puddle of water.

It was only a matter of seconds when I started thinking about the

negative/inverted side of what I was seeing: the reflection was so clear

and solid, that it turned actually deceiving. I found it fascinating

mixing realities and altering the order of things, always using the same

visuals that I was naturally finding in front of me: it was just a

matter of tweaking the direction you view them. Previously, I was

already thinking about working on the topic of the two sides of the same

coin. So my discovery fitted perfectly.

In the case of my series "Inverso-símil en clave cóncava", it was an

intentional, planned and studied process (and it definitely is an

expansion of my previous series "Inverso-símil"). I sought for a way to

continue turning the world upside down, and as a consequence, the

technique evolved from being involuntary to obsessive, from casual to

premeditated, from fortuitous to meticulous.  And just as a puddle of

water became my accomplice before, now a magnifying glass became my

partner in crime.

Actually, the use of the magnifying glass, due to its "negative

magnification" quality, allowed me to invert the image through the lens,

besides myself inverting the whole photograph after taking the picture

of what I was seeing through the glass; therefore, double inversion!

Also, for the gringos, what do Inverso-símil and Inverso-símil en clave cóncava translate to in English?

In Spanish, "Inverso-símil" is the result of a word game that joins the idea of inversing and the idea of implausibility (inverso = inverse and inverosímil = implausibility) . In addition, "en clave cóncava" means in concave key or mode.

You used to work as a publicist. Why the switch to photography?

Honestly, before becoming a publicist, I already had my Pentax and

started flirting with photography in an informal way. Being a publicist

in one way or another fully seasoned and exercised my muscle of

creativity. I gained amazing experiences and it was definitely part of

this puzzle of finding my own way.  Actually, my first photography class

happened during my advertising studies. But I definitely think the

major commitment one has is with oneself, and being honest in this level

has no price. I came up to a moment where I said "no more of this", and

what was left was to turn the steering wheel in the opposite direction.

I can barely remember that life. I'm not a publicist anymore, that was

another me.

Do you shoot digital or film?

Cover your ears, purists! It's time to talk about pixels. I used both

but from a couple of years the most part of my work is digital. I really

have no problems with accepting new technologies.

You manipulate photographs using magnifying glass and reflective

surfaces. Is this a commentary about how so many photographers tweak

images in post-production through Photoshop?

With these two series, I really didn't want to use Photoshop or any

other digital manipulation except maybe brightness and contrast. I

believe that's what viewers find more striking. What makes it special is

that it's just a real picture presented in a different way. I have

nothing against the use of Photoshop though, at the end I consider it

another tool to deliver an idea or a message; it's just another

assistant to the expression. But I do believe there are some concepts to

adjust. We have to understand that there are artists that use

photography as a medium of expression, and they aren't or they don't

need to be tied up to the pragmatisms of the theoreticians.

An artist that utilizes photography doesn't necessarily mean he is a

photographer. He just participates from this medium to state his

message. But maybe to a traditional photographer, the photograph could

be wrongly taken or could not even be a photograph per se. But within

contemporary photography, these could have a justified discourse, and

yes, may times breaking our parameters of  "beauty."

I do have series that flirt with digital manipulation, but I'm not sure I

would call them photography. They are simply something else.

Some of your images are reminiscent of Henri Cartier-Bresson and his

reflection shots such as Behind the Gare St. Lazare. Was this a

conscious influence?

Some people have related my work with Bresson's, and I blush!

Nevertheless, is not a conscious influence. Bresson focuses on his

magnificent L'instant decisive, like in his photograph "Behind the Gare

Saint-Lazare". His intention is to capture the precise moment, the

summit of tension. My work focuses on the "malicious" recreation of new

realities and the construction of urban landscapes, departing from

already existent ones. I seek for the regulatory intervention of reason

during the process of understanding what the viewer is actually

observing. Nevertheless, I have to say I am a big follower of Bresson,


Who are some of your favorite photographers?

Miru Kim, Vik Muniz, Anna Gaskell, Ryan McGinley, Alex Prager, Marc

Lagrange, Jeff Bark, Michael Wolf, Julia Fullerton-Batten, Ellen Kooi,

and Nazif Topçuoglu, among others.

How do you define your particular form of photography?

Each one of my series defines my form of photography differently.

"Inverso-símil" and "Inverso-símil en clave cóncava" would define it as

beautifully chaotic and as a space for deceiving. But some of my other

series would define my photography as a "staging" to criticize more

sociological topics, in other series as a way to establish a dialogue

between contraries or even to exalt eroticism.

I avoid "recycled" photography, the one that repeats and repeats itself

through time. On the contrary, each of my photography series is a book

that begins and ends with it, with a hypothesis, an experiment and a


What would the hypothesis and conclusion be for "Inverso-símil" and "Inverso-símil en clave cóncava"?

 The hypothesis was based on finding a way to represent both sides of the coin from solely one real image. Searching to photograph two realities as a whole could make the viewer's experience become participatory, playful and somehow, inquisitive. The conclusion is that through the use of deceptive allies, like the puddle of waters and the magnifying glass, I could merge the two sides of one image in a harmonic and chaotic manner respectively, and arise in the viewer a doubtful interpretation towards what he is seeing. To me, my conclusion is the exhibit statement.

What advice can you offer emerging photographers?

I would tell them to take advantage of the Internet and its resources of

learning (podcasts, v-logs, online lectures, etc.). Its resources for

discovering other artists, techniques and influences; its resources of

publishing in webzines, blogs; its resources for finding organizations,

chapters and associations to belong. The virtual space is a great

"place" for networking, and above all, learning and expanding your


Also, don't believe in the hermit artist: go to openings and lectures,

integrate into the world of art. Humbly learning, absorbing and being

influenced by others, regardless of the medium of expression, is the

best and most beautiful part of it.

See "Inverses" at Lunch Box Gallery (310 NW 24th St., Miami) through April 4. The gallery is open Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment. Visit

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