Art & Photography

Tengo un Dragón Dentro del Corazón

Celebrated Spanish photographer Carlota Guerrero introduces her first book

I retain a vivid memory of being a small child, sitting at my desk during school, fantasising about climbing up on the teacher’s table and taking off my clothes. The teachers try to stop me, but I flee and run naked like a gazelle, through the corridors, the courtyard of the school and the gymnasium, and through all the public spaces. I feel terribly guilty for having imagined it.

The years go by; I have forgotten that idea. Suddenly I am swimming naked in the Mediterranean, and I have an epiphany: this is the safe space where I can run like a gazelle. There are no teachers here, no priests; I am invincible. I spend the whole of the summer climbing along the north-facing cliffs in the nude, in only my plastic sandals, in search of salt deposits. In my search, I clamber to the top of a rock in the middle of the sea, from which I turn my gaze and see my girlfriends lying in the sun, also nude. The Mediterranean is our cradle; we are invincible.

I bring together ten women. I dress them from more (totally covered) to less (in underwear). They dance in a circle around a pole dancer. While the ten women symbolize different levels of shame or guilt, the central vortex that moves them is the nude woman: the nude as a spiritual force. The one who accepts herself in her most natural condition is the most luminous, the strongest, the one who laughs the most, the most connected. I once read a story about a woman who was telling a traditional tale in her village. As she told it, she noticed a hand touching her foot. Looking down, she realized that she was sitting on the shoulders of an older woman, correcting her way of recounting the story. In turn, that woman was also sitting on the shoulders of a still older woman, and so on, all the way down, creating an endless ladder of women passing along their wisdom, from time immemorial. This image is with me always; it obsesses me. I try to depict it time and again.

There are certain threads that connect all of humanity. They travel from chest to chest. The thread’s colour indicates just what is going on between the two people. Many times, I concentrate, and I can see it. In the same way that a tree takes root in the soil, we take root horizontally with other humans, with the currents of coloured light that connect us. This vision came to me during my first LSD trip when I identified a stream of energy, of changing hues, connecting me with my friends, from womb to womb. When I bring women together in one place and photograph them, I am creating new organisms, a surreal projection of my mind, an invented, new animal composed of the bodies which feeds back into itself, as if each woman were an organ or a cell that, by joining the others, makes up a whole being.

I cannot stop imagining things, new animals, auxiliary planets, colours I have never seen before, multiple extremities … I am a channel and sometimes a vessel. The tips of my hair are antennae, receiving this information. The ideas are universal and are floating. It is hard for me to concentrate because I sense the speed of blood coursing through my dragon veins. I am always a flower, and the images I create are my petals. And we are all flowers, and life is a field. When I remember to relax my jaw and my shoulders and my belly, I suddenly travel down a river with my body in serpentine curves. I cannot stop imagining things. My mind is a raging river that splashes with ideas … If I close my eyes, the sun shines on my face even when I am within these four walls. I have been a friend and an enemy of my body for thirty years, and my body is the body of a woman, and, in the bodies of other women, I find a union, a fractal, an organised composition of similarities that make me feel I am where I need to be, as if, within the chaos, we were creating a small order…

Photography Carlota Guerrero

Tengo un Dragón Dentro del Corazón, out now, is published by Prestel