Living in a claustrophobic city can have its upsides. For Celeste Ortiz it has sparked the making of a collection of intimate self-portraits. Here, we reveal her story
Celeste Ortiz is a fine art photographer from San Antonio, a small city along the central coast of Chile. There, from a light-flooded private room, she produces her beguiling self-portraiture, offering us silent glimpses into her life.
As many self-portraitists will relate to, Celeste doesn’t have the money to afford a studio, so her room at home has become her primary workspace, ‘My room is my personal space where no one can bother me, nor see me doing strange poses in front of or behind the camera,’ she comments. ‘Maybe I was drawn to using this space by an unconscious interest in making works that are deeply personal, or maybe the works just got shaped this way because of these circumstances, I don’t know.’ The artist occasionally takes photographs in her garden, and has explored outdoor photo-shoots focusing on nature in nearby forests and on the coast, but one day she was assaulted and her camera was stolen, and she hasn’t ventured out again to shoot. Instead, she brings the outside in: the bright sunlight, shadows, and flowers.
Celeste’s work found many supporters on Flickr, during the platform’s golden period of the early 2010s. ‘Flickr used to be so cool!’ she exclaims, ‘It was the first place I shared my photos and people were so nice there. They commented on photos like they really cared about them, and that was very encouraging when I was only starting with photography. I haven’t found that on other social media … not at that level.’ Today, she mainly uses Instagram to share her work, but explains that it doesn’t hold the same community vibe for her as Flickr once did, ‘There are kind people, but there are also so many accounts of people that aren’t even real, telling you they love your pic and asking you to follow them. That said, I do like Instagram; it is an endless source of inspiration and almost the only way I have to show what I do to the world.’
As for her current projects, Celeste explains that her creative process is ‘very chaotic. I don’t follow a workflow; I focus on my ideas one day at a time, and my photography depends on the mood, the weather, the season and so many other things. I try to make photos every day.’ She continues, ‘I have put more interest in the process than in the results lately, and the process is very, very slow.’
A Canon 500N is Celeste’s current camera, and she uses a few old lenses with it and a range of filters to play around with the effects in her photography. She continually experiments with the cameras she uses, along with the films and approaches she takes, so her work shifts quite a lot, but its themes and style are constant. ‘In 2017 I made a lot of still-life work,’ she says, ‘so I don’t only shoot self-portraits, and I think that’s progress. Self-portraits were my first recurrent theme when I first owned a camera, and this has stuck with me, but it’s refreshing to have other subjects. I still have a long way to go. I’m nowhere near the best I can be.’