OLGA       DE      LA         IGLESIA


This week we chatted with thirty-one year old artist and photographer Olga de la Iglesia, from Barcelona. With an eye for composition and a colour palette like no other, Olga’s work is admired the world over. From perfectly placed commodities to serendipitous street scenes, each of her vibrant and eye-catching images marks the start of an awe-inspiring journey.

What’s your profession?

I’m an artist and a photographer.

How old are you?

I’m thirty-one years old.

Tell me a bit about your background?

I was born and raised in Barcelona. My grandmother was a painter in Spain, at a time when being a woman and an artist did not go hand in hand. Naturally she has been a cornerstone to my upbringing. I went to a school designed by Gaudí, and in the street where I grew up there were buildings designed by very famous architects. Spanish and Catalan culture and aesthetics have surrounded me my whole life and I’m really fascinated by them as a result. My friends and the Mediterranean landscape in which I grew up are an essential part of my background, but also my present.

When did you first decide to travel solo and where did you go?

At the age of 25 I decided to leave everything I had in my life – my family, my boyfriend, my office job – to undertake an adventure. I travelled alone to the Dominican Republic... without any specific goal. I wanted to simply surrender to the laws of the universe, only I also wanted to learn more than I had learnt in my whole life before that point.

I've always felt an absolute devotion for the tropics – anywhere in the world where that word can be found. It’s the spontaneity of people, their use of colour, architecture, clothes, music, and their exuberant nature that inspire me. By living between Barcelona and DR for three years, I managed to create my imaginary expression, based on shapes and colours.

What’s been your greatest achievement whilst travelling?

It’s been to observe, without the need to capture everything with my camera first.

What have you found to be the most challenging part of travelling solo and how did you learn to overcome it?

I went to Senegal with a project in mind and came back with a lesson for life. It was very difficult for me to photograph in this country – culturally, it is not received very well – particularly as a white woman. I could feel a lot of censorship at times. But at the end, everyone I met showed me the enormous value of their culture and it’s beauty... perhaps they did not share it consciously, but somehow they shared it with me. Senegal has forever changed my way of photographing people; it was very important for me as a person, a woman and as a photographer to have this experience.

What’s the weirdest thing that you saw or experienced on your travels, and in which country?

Being obligated to wear a headscarf in Iran – I felt my freedom as a woman was taken from me for a few days. But it was important for me to experience this in order to get closer to understanding the different realities of being a woman that exist.

Who was the most inspiring person that you met whilst travelling and why? Can you tell me a bit about them?

It’s difficult to choose, all of them are inspirations.

What was your best experience with a local and why? Can you tell me a bit about them?

Rafael Morla, my favorite artist in the world, is an artist handcraftsman who does the most beautiful animal wood sculptures.

From materials he picks up from the street, and with his imagination and fantasy – no references – he works with his hands to create these masterpiece, and decides the colours and the shapes of his creations with total freedom. He taught me the importance of freedom in creative work.

Where was your favourite travel destination so far and why?

Myanmar; I love everything about this country, the nature, the colours, it’s spirituality, the delicious food, the architecture and of course, the people.

Where is the next destination you plan to visit? What do you plan to do?

Mexico. I would like to know more about the communities of craftswomen in Oaxaca.

How can we make our travels more meaningful in this day and age?

By travelling without the judgement that comes with our cultural perspective. Let us be flooded by the purity of the countries we visit.

How has travel influenced and impacted your life? Would you change this given the chance?

I´ve been travelling to far-away countries since I was a kid, I thank my father who has taken me to these places since I was very young. He is responsible for broadening my conscience, before I could even understand what consciousness means.

How has solo travel empowered you?

It has you living in the present moment... in that specific place. Keeping those unique moments for just yourself is magical.

If you could journey back to before you first travelled alone, is there anything you know now that you would tell yourself?

Try to remain some days in the same city or place, that’s when you start to really understand where you are.

Do you have a favourite object that you bought on your travels, and what’s the story behind it?

My house is full of these objects: I have a zoo, and jungle made out of little pieces of wood; paper mache; glass; leather, or natural fibers from all of the places I mentioned.

All of them have a story, they are the stories of my life.

Photographs taken by Olga de la Iglesia.

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