The Velvet Cell,
The Velvet Cell is an independent publisher of small-run photography books, based in both London, UK, and Taipei, Taiwan and interested in contemporary, urban spaces and social structures. The Velvet Cell represents a platform for documentary photographers well focused on sociological interests. It was founded by Eanna de Freine in 2011.
Common Love is a book by Isidro Ramirez, accurately designed and printed, in a limited edition of 500 copies. Common Love is based in Bangkok, Thailand, 8 million people. Commerce, power and religion. We can explore a modern city with a rich ancient history, beyond stereotypes. The scars, the symbols and the allegories of the past are interpreted through the signs of daylife and many pressures towards modernity. Undetermined hypothesis of the future emerge looking at the dynamic, evolving and casual street scenes and cityscape of the city. The emotional imagery paradoxes consolidate the concept of a society attempting a specific combination of difference and identity.
Gianpaolo Arena: Common Love is based in Bangkok. This city is a big presence in your work. What is it that you find inspirational about the city?
Isidro Ramires In September 2010 I relocated to Singapore. The main reason for this change was my wish to start a new series of projects that would explore some of the main cities in South East Asia. Asia, in general, had been a source of fascination for me for a long time. Local customs, religion, architecture, superstitions, social etiquette and other cultural practices are so new and intriguing for me. I find them very inspirational.
My first project in this region, Common Love, is based in Bangkok, Thailand. It was intended as a dispassionate exploration of the city's most common spaces. The book is presented with hardly any text or indication of where these places might be. In a way, this helps to the generic look and feel of these photographs. The photographs could have been taken anywhere but, for me, there is also a distint flavour of the vernacular Bangkok in them and of what I love about this city. In many ways while I was doing this project I was looking for innocence in a city that is internationally known for its lack of it.
GA: What attracted you towards landscape, urban spaces and architecture? IR: I find landscapes are a more subtle and quiet genre of photography. When I photograph people I find the end result can be too loud and, if not done properly, too telling. What attracted me to landscape and architecture photography is how these can help to quietly tell a story. Landscapes tell human stories without showing any faces. they can speak of the human condition, question our aspirations, desires and wishes by looking at the scattered signs hidden beneath layers of paint coats and dust.
GA: Did you start the project with the idea of making a book? IR: I always thought of Common Love to be the first in a series of books of SE Asia city explorations. I am currently working in a project in Jakarta.
GA: Any advice for students currently studying? IR: I have taught photography for about 15 years now. My general advise to all my students has always been to cultivate interests outside photography. Photography should be the vehicle not the finality of their work. Read a lot, watch good cinema, keep a log of your thoughts and ideas as crazy as they might appear to be and above all – be very curious!
Isidro Ramírez is a Spanish photographer now based in Singapore. After living, working and studying in the UK for 20 years he moved to Singapore in 2011 where he lecturers in photography at Temasek Polytechnic. His work shows a delicate balance of what is real and what is perceived, between the fabric of place and the texture of memory.