In 2016, Solange Knowles’s manager contacted me on Instagram, asking if I wanted to art direct her new album, A Seat at the Table. I was working in Barcelona at the time, and had no idea I had that type of reach. It was my first big international commission.
I present female communities in a raw yet relaxed way. Solange was interested in this, but to find out if we would be a good fit, we first met in London and worked on a digital project for Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, an exhibition at Tate Modern.
Then I spent a month and a half travelling around the US, art-directing music videos – including scouting for locations with natural or architectural beauty – and taking photographs. We were a small team; it was very lo-fi. The second part of the project was just a road trip with Solange, the director, and Solange’s assistant. It was a lot of hard work, but we had hilarious moments.
Solange had strong ideas for the concepts she wanted to explore in the album. I would sit down with her and we would translate those into visual images. We shot this for the album cover in a studio in New York. It wasn’t set up in advance – we didn’t know what we wanted to do, other than she wanted her face on the cover.
Her hair stylist was experimenting with using clips to shape her hair, and we decided to try keeping them in. I love the vulnerability: showing the styling process instead of the final result. We decided to make the cover image something in between. At the same time, Solange wanted to have this strong gaze, to look people in the eye.
I became obsessed with human connections after an LSD trip – I thought I was connected to people I loved via a string linking our stomachs
I went on to work with Solange on her next album, 2019’s When I Get Home. It was a bigger, more complex production. Coming from a different culture, and not being black, meant I needed to do a lot of listening and learning.
Today, I continue to work on my own art projects. When brands – such as Dior, Nike and Helmut Lang – find them interesting, they commission me for commercial work. I also do a lot of performance art. I became obsessed with human connections and communities after a life-changing LSD trip in which I could see that I was connected to the people I loved with a string linking our stomachs. So when I group women together for images, I attach them to each other in different ways. Sometimes they’re naked, without the layers of complexity that separates me from them. Sometimes, I connect them by braiding their hair together, or with some tights, or garments I have sewn together.
Women can feel scared at the beginning of a shoot – until they see a whole group of women comfortable in their bodies. Then they get naked without fear. They tell me afterwards their image of themselves changed as a result.
I’m part of the new movement in fashion and photography to be inclusive and naturaI. I always felt inspired to wake up in the morning in a female body. My mum and sister raised me, and the women in my life inspired me. I could see beauty in all of my female friends, no matter what. But I could also see the hate woman had for their own bodies. My generation grew up with Kate Moss and the super-skinny top models. A turning point in my career was realising that for decades it had been male photographers portraying women as they wanted. Women hadn’t had the opportunity to decide how they looked. For me, women are not a blank canvas: there’s space for them all to feel beautiful, cherished and respected. I take that responsibility very seriously.
Carlota Guerrero’s CV
Born: Barcelona, 1989.
Influences: “The divine feminine, God, LSD.”
High point: “Directing a live orgy performance in Art Basel Miami.”
Low point: “Hypersensitivity – I cry any time I see somebody crying.”
Top tip: “Don’t let ideas die in the limbo of the ideas, bring them to life even if you doubt, then let them go.”