August 3, 2010

Ruben Natal-San Miguel

Interview with Ruben Natal-San Miguel
August 2010

You are an architect, photographer, writer, curator and art collector. How do you manage to wear so many hats?

I truly like what I do and try to be as organized as possible. The architectural background really helps to manage all the other duties. It helps for me to have a trained eye for detail and quality, which helps tremendously when art collecting, making photographs, looking, critiquing, curating and writing about art.

When did you first begin your interest in photography?

My main interest in Photography truly became a force of nature after witnessing and surviving the September 11, 2001 attacks in NYC. From that day on, everything became extremely visual and of the moment. In my opinion, no other art media documents better than video and film, of the moment events and life like photography does.

Your photographic series, NY, NY: The Concrete Jungle, has a historic street photographic feel to it, yet the images are poignant modern-day scenes in New York City, shot in color. Did you want the series to feel timeless for the viewer? What inspired this series for you?

What really inspired more than anything is the daily activity that I witnessed on my way home every day. I grew up sheltered and, I guess sort of in an upscale environment back home and here in the US while in college. I moved to Upper Manhattan because after 9/11 did not wanted to live in a high rise building, and Upper Manhattan has brownstones and a more community feel. Living within proximity of these inner city events and activities caught my eye and I decided that I wanted to document the activities and the transition over the years with the new development taking over.

The photography series is shot in color because; I wanted to demonstrate the vibrant and richness aspect of the life here. I think the work of Helen Levitt, Bruce Davidson, Roy Decarava and Zoe Strauss come to mind but, in all honesty I was doing it all along because it felt right capturing activities, people and places, and with the development renewal, they will be gone in a matter of years. So six years later after working on this project, I already can see dramatic changes.

Glamour Break, Harlem, 2009

Beyond the Gates There Are Dreams, Harlem, 2009

Playing By Heart, Upper Manhattan, 2008

You recently curated The Naked Truth at Hous Projects in New York City, and the exhibition has now moved to Los Angeles. This is a fantastic show! How did you come up with the idea for this exhibition?

My main idea was to just make people more aware of its hidden sensuality and sexuality by just hinting it in a subtle and titillating manner without being sexually overt and graphic. Americans are still too uptight about sex.

In June, you were followed around by the creators of Work of Art, on Bravo TV. How exciting! What part of the New York art scene did you show them and where did you take them? How did you get involved with this project?

It was a pilot shot mostly about me and my knowledge of the arts in Manhattan. The show (if it works out) will be about an insight view of the art business and is unrelated to the current show Work of Art. Work of Art is a competition; this is more about the life of someone very involved in the art business. It is currently on the editing stage and that is all I know for now.

As a collector, what do you look for in an artist? Do you have a favorite photographer you are looking at right now? What is it about this photographer?

Good intentions of making great work not, just pretty pictures. The work has to provide some sort of social relevance. Quality is a must!!
Also it is important that the work can be sold respectably, shown and has good investment possibilities.

I have been looking at the work of Alex Prager and recently bought one of her prints. August 1, 2010, I started to do Photolucida’s Critical Mass 2010 for which I am a pre-screening judge.

What is the best advice you would give to an emerging artist trying to get his or her “foot in the door” in the New York art scene?

Read, study others, take a good business, marketing and PR course and find a way to meet me.

Ruben at the Humble Arts Foundation Book Release, 2009
Photo By: Carrie Villines