The Mystique Of Alchimie Photographique
By Alex Starace
Cuba-born and Spain-raised, Diego Quiros – who now hangs his hat in Miami – is not a man to shy away from grandeur. Nor is he a man to ignore his impulses. A natural born scientist with an affinity for math and physics, the degreed engineer left his day job to follow his passion – as an author and photographer. Quiros has developed a unique photographic style that he dubs Alchimie Photographique, which is French for Alchemic Photography.
As Quiros puts it, “Everything can be broken down into the four classical elements … space (air), matter (earth), energy (fire) and the flow of time (water). I catalogue my photography in a similar fashion – passion, sunrises and sunsets are categorized as fire, for example.”
The Quiros aesthetic is heavily influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites and the Symbolists, both of whom “believed that art should represent truths that could only be described indirectly,” according to the artist. His biggest influence, however, is the poet Louise Gluck, whose essay on the “unsaid” points out that a deliberate silence in a written text can touch a reader in a way that a description or a spelling-out of the story simply can’t. Quiros incorporates this theory into his photography. For example, in his piece The Name of the Rose, a monk walks down the hallway of an abbey, while the viewer is left to wonder what the monk is thinking and where he is going. It’s an image pregnant with possibility.
In speaking with South Florida Opulence, Quiros lifted the veil on that particular photograph. It started when he was visiting what he had been told was an abandoned monastery. The main building was locked – he had tried unsuccessfully to open it using a heavy circular ring of a handle that had thumped against the door when he let go. A few minutes later, to his surprise, a monk opened the door and asked what he wanted.
Quiros apologized and began to leave, but the monk invited him inside. As soon as he entered, the monk locked the door behind them. Quiros was led deeper into the ancient building, each room becoming more elaborate and featuring more and more valuable ornaments. The monk locked every door behind them, causing Quiros to fear for his safety and develop a plan by which he would grab a bronze candle holder to defend himself, should it be necessary.
Eventually, they came to a courtyard far inside the building, where Quiros was shown a cemetery. The monk explained that every monk who had died at the monastery was buried there – and that there was an empty plot where he himself would one day be buried. After then showing Quiros three sundials nearby – the tools he used to track time – the monk began to lead him out of the courtyard. Trailing behind, Quiros snapped a photo he would later title The Name of the Rose, an image that captures so well the haunting mystery of that afternoon.
Quiros has travelled the world plying his art. “I don’t feel like I belong in any specific country,” he said. “I see myself as a mixture of all three cultures: Cuban, Spanish and American. When you do a painting, there’s always the primary colors. You have red, yellow and blue.
But the most beautiful colors are all the other colors that you can mix, like the greens and purples, the violets and the oranges. I feel like I’m more of a mixture of those three primary colors. … I find that it really opens your horizons to explore and be open to different lifestyles and people, and what they’re all about.”
Quiros certainly has no trouble keeping an open mind. An avid reader, he is currently exploring Celtic history and folklore and plans to travel to northern Spain and Ireland to photograph Celtic ruins. “I’m looking for ancient burial grounds, abandoned Celtic villages and castles.” Such an exotic, far-ranging project might seem like the opportunity of a lifetime – but for someone devoted to the classicism of Alchimie Photographique, the trip is simply the fulfillment of the human urge to create.
To view Quiros’ online gallery, go to www.diegoquiros.com.