Chrononaut are a photographer duo, Mia and Fabian, who grew up together as children in Spain. After moving away and losing touch, over a decade later they re-encountered one another and discovered that they shared a love for photography. Their work is soft and serene, and reflects a desire to capture and relive passing moments. Currently both based in Belgrade where they are working on various projects, we spoke to Mia and Fabian about the unique dynamics involved in working together.
Throughout your work is a feeling of calm: people look very natural and serene, and in some of the images it’s almost like the subjects weren’t aware of being photographed. Is this something that you aim for, and/or a method you have of working?
Mia: I would say that we are consistently inconsistent. Some of the photographs are spontaneous clicks while others are orchestrated. However, even in the second case we try to create moments within the chosen setting rather than photographing static positions. We try to find spaces with natural light, play music, bring materials that the subjects can use as they want etc. In other words, we never know on forehand what the exact outcome will be.
Fabian: We try to create an atmosphere of relaxation, of childlike wonder and calmness where the model is one with his/her thoughts. It is important that the person being captured feels relaxed. Emotions show on a photograph and it is easy to see when something is real and when it is forced.
We adore the meaning behind your name ‘Chrononaut’ because it really encapsulates the magic of photography to enable the viewer to travel through time and dive into moments that have since passed. What do you find most powerful about photography as an art form?
Fabian: A photograph can capture more than the sum of things depicted. I love when composition and the event in question come together to form and translate a certain message in a way that it touches the intended strings, when looking at a photograph stirs up emotions like listening to a dear song can do.
Mia: In my case the answer has been changing. Photography and writing were, indeed, primarily a way of saving moments. Going back in my notebooks, I would be asking myself who had written some of the content and how could events and feelings that were once important have turned into vague flashes. Realising how fragile memory is brought a kind of obsessive documenting. I started writing, photographing and filming whenever I had the chance.
At a certain point Fabian and I were asked to illustrate with photographs a number of quotations from Goethe’s Faust. The process showed me in practice that photography can also be used to express ideas. What I found wonderful about this is that it left space for the observer to interpret and did not impose in the way writing can. I enjoyed being able to pour myself onto the material and still not be, so to say, exposed. This is perhaps a cowards mentality.
Photographs can be a way of fooling oneself, of rebuilding ones memories, creating a space in which you want to live, the way in which you want to see the world. I was born during the 90’s in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, and have some memories of the time of conflict. At the moment I am doing a master studies in social work and human rights.
Even though Fabian and I are researching ways in which photography could be integrated with my studies, currently our gallery is a space to be enjoyed – a compilation of dear memories, serene moments, games of light and shadow, bright tones.
As a photographer duo, how does your way of working differ from other photographers?
Fabian: We compliment each other in many ways. Mia is more in tune with the emotional aspect of photography while I enjoy translating an idea into an actual set that can be photographed. We work as one, helping each other and complementing each other at the spot.
Mia: We can only talk about our way of working since we have not collaborated with other photographers, even though we have many wishes. On a practical level we try to be thinking together and helping each other. We are different in character, at times this can bring us to a clash but it often ends with a consensus that we tend to like more than what we first had in mind. Living with somebody who shares your way of expressing is motivating. I can definitely say that many of my ideas would have been pushed aside if Fabian wouldn’t have been there to encourage them and help me see them through.
Do you have a favourite image? And could you tell us the story behind it.
Fabian: I love this photograph because, as simple as it is, it shows the beauty of the human body, back turned to the world in all it’s vulnerability. I like to think that it can be seen that the person who took it loves the woman depicted in it.
Mia: We met during childhood in the south of Spain and spent most of our afternoons together until Fabians family decided to move. Once, my parents took us to a place called El Torcal de Antequera to climb rocks. This event is one of our treasured memories. As a common favourite we have chosen a photograph that we took on a little greek island. Since we re-encountered each other, every year we visit a different place in Greece and somehow always end up climbing rocks. The place that you see on this photograph shows an isolated beach we found during one of our trips. The sea is a frequent subject on our photographs, we grew up by it and miss it, hence the title a(mar).
What do you have planned for this year in regards to your work?
For us this will be a year of many changes, in all aspects. We will be traveling often, the little projects that we have in mind will be happening in different places, mostly in Belgrade – Mia’s country of origin. We are eager to work on different locations and explore further what is it that we enjoy photographing the most. We are interested in learning new techniques such as the wet plate and collaborating with other artists. For ourselves we are working on a long-term project that strives to capture growth and change on an individual level and in respect to each other.