MIGUEL ANGEL AMORTEGUI
Photographer / Author / Filmmaker / Artist
I am a UK-based Colombian artist, photographer and writer. I use visual mediums to tell meaningful stories, often, but not exclusively, with a social conscience. As a Photojournalist, I have covered conflict areas, refugee camps, poverty, sexual violence and famine.
Inspiration behind the paintings
I am a trained participatory photography facilitator working with disadvantaged and marginalised communities. I teach them photography and digital storytelling skills - empowering participants with a tool to tell their stories of struggle, dignity and more than anything hope.
I have worked with gangs in London, residents of Lima’s favelas in Peru, child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo and communities experiencing extreme poverty in Ghana. I have produced documentaries with exiled people from both Chile and Botswana.
I am the author of “Voices of the Jungle” - a compilation of stories and photographs covering the movement of refugees, from many parts of the world to the UK, who I met whilst living in the infamous Jungle refugee camp in Calais, France.
I was invited to the United Nations General Assembly to talk about my work and my experiences in the field.
I love my work and what I do. I love meeting new people all the time and being able to tell or help them to tell their stories. To click the shutter at the right time, immortalising a moment of injustice while drawing myself in adrenaline and fear. Trying to keep truthful to what these people go through every day and try to light a tiny candle in the middle of their darkness.
It is a hard job and sometimes it is inevitable to pick up some ghost along the way; images and sounds that penetrate your heart, setting camp in your memories indefinitely so that they become part of who you are.
Some of these memories can really affect your life and the way you see the world around you. Sometimes I feel more comfortable being in those places than living in the so-called “First world”. There is some kind of invisible magic that seduces you when you are there, it is the happiness, the dignity and hope that these people have after losing everything in their life.
The humanity of wanting to share with you a piece of bread without knowing when the next meal is going to come their way. It is watching armies of skeleton children laughing and dancing with the beats of a broken plastic bucket, stomping the ground so hard that it feels as if they are squashing the horrible memories of their past.
Sometimes it is hard to come back from these places, listening carefully to people struggling with first world problems and trying to understand their reality too, without holding any judgement. When you do this type of work for a long time you learn to live between the two realities, like if you were setting camp in the middle of a bridge trying to find a way to shelter yourself from each side.
This is where painting takes place. I vividly remember accompanying my mother as a child to deliver her art classes at the University of Bogota, Colombia. There I used to entertain myself with oils and pastels, spending hours trying to copy the work of famous artists that at the time were unknown to me.
Painting has helped me to overcome the skeletons that my work has left on me. I intend to trap them in plain canvases and fill them in with vibrant colours to try to resemble the dignity of the people I portray.
In my paintings I show the complexity of us humans and our lives. Our feelings, passions, sadness, hopes and traumas, filling each stroke with all the colours these feelings have to offer.
My paintings narrate stories where the characters are experiencing feelings of happiness, nostalgia, loss, hope for a better life but especially love and passion. All my characters are filled with bright and dark strokes, dozens of strong colours that represent all their happiness as well as their wounds.
They are beautiful in their own way; complex, passionate and free. They are portrayed as if they were X-rays, to show the many layers of complexity that made us who we are. Most of them have useless hands without joints to make us feel incapacitated and impotent towards certain situations in life.
Having found art again has helped me hugely. As a therapy, it helps me to express the other side that is impossible to capture in photographs due to its invisibility, the side that is sometimes more real than the world we are accustomed to.
Please do take a look around the exhibition and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’d like to know more.
My painting are available to view here