Exploring the darkest corners of the human psyche

Exploring the darkest corners of the human psyche

Twisted portraits — For two decades, photographer Victor Cobo has been investigating the mysteries of life and death, damnation and salvation, trauma and sex.

Over the past two decades, Victor Cobo has used photography to explore the dark corners of the human psyche. His work uses a compelling mix of documentary and staged scenes, addressing the primal mysteries of life and death, damnation and salvation, trauma and sex.

“I’m an emotional person that has had my bout with addiction, depression and anxiety,” Cobo says. “My biological father is mentally ill, was addicted to heroin and an acute alcoholic. I think the aspect of isolation and drama comes out in my work. I utilise to my advantage his psychosis that I most likely inherited. I try to turn these aspects of darkness into beautiful and sometimes even playful images.”

In the new exhibition Remember When You Loved Me, Cobo uses photography to spellbinding effect. Drawing inspiration from surrealism, film noir, and German expressionism, the photographer has transformed the camera into a therapeutic medium. 

“My photographic world flourishes with my drive to create beauty in an abstract universe of dreams and reality,” he explains. “It’s a method of escaping the darkness.”

© Victor Cobo, “To All the Ones that Come and All the Ones that Go, San Francisco Twins Now Deceased,” San Francisco, CA, 2007

“I remember as a child in Spain, I would draw while my mother and father fought constantly; creativity was my escape from the difficulties of having to be two different people. As a teenager, I started experimenting with taking pictures of my friends while we were high on psychedelic drugs. My work grew increasingly abstract, and I got into making imagery of darker things: strange landscapes, animals – real moody stuff.”

Whether working in Mexico, Thailand, Greece, Spain, Canada or in his hometown of San Francisco, Cobo finds solace in making photographs that negotiate the uncharted spaces of the mind as it fights for, and sometimes against, its own survival. 

“The mysteries of life are intriguing to me,” he says. “I gave myself permission in a way to express myself as freely and completely as possible.”

For Cobo, art gives purpose and shape to the existential questions that underlie the extraordinary complexities, challenges, and contradictions of modern life. “Unless you have religious feelings or something along those lines, how can you not think that our lives are meaningless – and become more so with age?” he asks.

“Although I know it has no direct meaning, is that I find it absolutely necessary to create. I love the possibilities of invention and the possibilities of something happening. Not because they’re worth something, but because they excite me.”

© Victor Cobo, “Say Hello to My Little Friend, Stray Cat I’ve Been Feeding Everyday at the Villa,” Tulum, Mexico, 2018

© Victor Cobo, “Bath Art,” San Francisco, CA, 2015

© Victor Cobo, “Eyes Wide Shut, Ode to Stanley Kubrick II, Self-Portrait,” San Francisco, CA, 2013

© Victor Cobo, “The Moon is Locked Away and the Land is Banked in Frozen Snow,” East Village, NY, 2010

© Victor Cobo, “Strange What Love Does, Darcy’s Revenge,” New Jersey, 2011

© Victor Cobo, “Strike Dear Mistress and Cure His Heart,” Hell’s Kitchen, NY, 2013

© Victor Cobo, “The Stud,” San Francisco, CA, 2011

© Victor Cobo, “Tiny Tears Make Up an Ocean, Baby Dale’s Last Dance, Policeman Who Found an Abandoned Baby Tosses Her a Flower,” San Jose, CA, 2003

© Victor Cobo, “Take a Break from the Madness of the World and Enter This Altered Reality, Self-Portrait,” San Francisco, CA, 2014

Victor Cobo: Remember When You Loved Me is on view at ClampArt Gallery, New York, through August 9. 

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