When I started to work for Guidepost, the editorial department got me specializing non-exclusively in Madrid galleries, me being an art major. (See, for example, the series I did on PhotoEspaña.) It so happened that down the street where I live there’s this gallery that intrigued me. It was called Yellow Tomate. The name alone was worth a second look. And so I went in, looked around and was impressed with what I saw, and ended up interviewing Javier.
“Look at this picture; how do you think it was done?” he asked. Javier Aramburu, the gallery owner, is a photographer. The image he pointed to is of a yellow tomato. I automatically thought ‘photoshop,’ but that wasn’t the answer.
Javier painted the tomato yellow, leaving only one spot of the ripe-red tomato and the medistem on top untouched. He admitted to spending hours at the supermarket picking out four kilos of tomatoes, then go home to choose the right tomato with the perfect stem. “The picture is very simple, but every detail to it is vital,” he tells me.
The Spanglish name of the gallery alludes to the two languages he speaks: Spanish and English. (He also of course speaks French.) A Spaniard who, I surmise, traces his ancestral origins to the Basque country, he was actually born in Paris, studied at the International Center of Photography in New York, has lived in Tokyo and Amsterdam, and now owns and runs Yellow Tomate in Madrid where he lives.
To Javier, Yellow Tomate (tomate is the Spanish word for tomato) represents ideas. “Lately photography has fallen into categories. I want to change that. I try to not limit myself to one category,” he says. In fact, his works range from Samurai photographs in Fukushima through still-lifes and everyday themes to fantastic landscapes.
No wonder Javier’s photography appeals to a wide range of people. If you look closely, each photography is very clean and appears complete. Javier believes that the ideas portrayed in an image can spread internationally because images aren’t hemmed in by language barriers.
He points to a picture. “How do you think I did this one?” The image is of a girl behind a cup. Her torso is normal but her waist is pinched to look very small. Her face is powdered to look like an antique doll. This time I knew Photoshop was not the answer.
The cup creates an illusion that the girl’s waist is small. Javier likes to use techniques like these because they require no editing.
He keeps his personal opinions of his photographs to himself. He thinks it is more interesting to hear what others have to say about his art.
In one image, a hefty woman sits confidently covered in pink. The saturated colors of this image make it hard to keep your eyes off the photograph. Javier took inspiration for this piece from Fernando Botero, the famous artist from Colombia who paints and sculps bigger women. This image makes it evident that no matter a person’s size they can still look alluring.
Yellow Tomate has two rooms filled with photographs of every size. After looking through both rooms, I realized that this was no gallery of a run-of-the-mill photographer but the showcase of an artist of the first water with his own unique style and driven by a passion that only the Latins of Europe are capable of.
For all that exclusivity, Javier’s avowed mission is to “democratize” the photographic art. The concept of Yellow Tomate is to make original photographs of limited editions, numbered and signed by Javier, each with its Certificate of Authenticity, available to aficionados at affordable prices.
You can also take your favorite photo to the gallery and Javier will turn it into a gallery-quality work of art. Ain’t that a treat?
Rosa Maria comes from an artistic family in New York, attends the City University of New York Lehman College, is on the Dean’s List with her double major in art and multimedia journalism, but is currently living in Spain. Says Rosa, “I love all forms of art but I take a special interest in photography which saves moments that the mind will one day forget.”
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